LONDON, ENGLAND, January-April 1999
The appointment with the solicitor was fixed on Monday the 18th of January at 3pm. It was just another British rainy day and I felt quite depressed because my stay in the United Kingdom was coming to an end. I needed a letter from my employer that confirmed the permanency of my employment and some other paper issued by the Italian bureaucratic embassy. As I had been trying unsuccessfully to get these documents for weeks and as my solicitor was too expensive for my budget, I decided to give up and face my cruel destiny. The Military Service was waiting for me and it was just a matter of weeks, maybe months.
Dan was not very supportive and he started talking about open-relationships. I had always been very old-fashioned and strictly monogamous-minded, but as I did not care too much about him anymore, I decided to meet someone new. I went to an Internet café and I arranged a date with a cute English guy a few years older than me. Justin was a professional young man and for his age he had achieved a lot. He lived by himself in a 3-bedroom luxurious apartment in Charing Cross Road, steps away from the gay district. He treated me to dinner at a very exclusive restaurant. After the meal, he paid the bill and he proposed to have a glass of red wine at his place. So I followed him to his technological heaven, where one had to dial codes and swipe cards to get the doors open. It felt a little like being in one of those super-modern 5-star hotels. After 3 glasses of wine Justin started kissing me and slowly he took my cloths off. That was the first time I slept with someone new since Dan.
In the last week of January I moved to New Cross in the south east of the city. The girls had found another flat that better suited their needs, which gave little choice to the rest of us. Sadly I lost gradually all the contacts with my ex flat mates in Bayswater. New Cross was a much quieter neighborhood than Bayswater’s, that excluding the frequent murders, whose posters were displayed in most of the bus stops and newsagents. The East London line and the British Railway were an easy way to reach Central London, however I enjoyed taking the bus to go to work. It was fascinating to look at the frenetic city life from the upper floor of the red double-decker bus. New Cross was a much more convenient location to get to see my boyfriend more often, as Surrey Quays was only ten minutes away. Dan and I started to go more often to local Chinese restaurants and I learnt to appreciate the Chinese cuisine more than ever. I started eating with the chopsticks and thanking the waiters saying “xièxie”. My knowledge of Chinese did not go that far as Dan did not like the idea that I wanted to learn his language. I guess he was too scared that I could have understood the most private conversations he had with his best-friend Roy. After five months together I could only write and say: “你好嗎”, pronounced “nǐ hǎo ma” and “我好”, pronounced “wǒ hǎo”, which I started using to ask Roy how he was and to answer him that I was well, even when I wasn’t.