A month after coming to the UK, my phone got stolen.
- First came the immediate panic of petting down my coat and shorts pockets followed by a frantic search in my bag right in the middle of an aisle on the ground floor of Monki on Carnaby Street, all the time thinking “I’ve scared myself shitless multiple times before, this time won’t be any different. It’ll probably turn up in my pocket or in my bag any time now” but feeling my heart sink every time my palms turned up empty.
- Then came the announcement from Janice that “it stopped ringing” and so did my heart but I fought to think of what’s next, what’s next that I can do to stop my phone getting further away from me because the alternative would be to launch into a full-fledged panic and I couldn’t be having that when I still at least had the chance to maybe do something. In the middle of enquiring about CCTV footage and being told the person behind the counter didn’t have the power to do that, I walked out of the shop multiple times, just staring people up and down, crime investigation TV serial shows flashing dramatically across my mind in a state of desperation, making me believe for the slightest moment the most absurd notion that I might catch the thief red-handed by, I don’t know, noticing someone’s fishy behaviour or maybe being noticed and chased after by a vigilant passerby but that’s not true, because they are exactly what they are, exaggerated TV tropes to reel people in from the absolute realness of real life.
- And then the dawn of realisation that my phone, my safety anchor of distractions and reassurances and also storage vault of photos and messages, was truly gone. Thousands of people walking up and down Oxford Street with their phones in their hands or pockets yet I was the one to have fallen victim (later on in the police station, I received a phone call from Ee Min in distress telling me that her phone had also been pick-pocketed in the exact same fashion as mine with an hour interval between our incidents a few miles away at Borough Market). But what felt the worst was the absolute helplessness of it all; it all happened so fast and theory dictated that something could be salvaged only if I acted quick enough (three-second rule and all its variations) but even after doing all I could do, searching Monki repeatedly, erasing my phone at the Apple store, lodging a report at the police station, they were merely necessary steps I coerced myself into focusing upon so I didn’t have the time to stop and throw a pity party for myself. London was so big but at the moment I felt so, so minute in this huge bustling city of hectic activities and rushing people.
- At the police station, there was a giant poster with the words “BEWARE OF PICK-POCKETS, DON’T LET A STOLEN PROPERTY RUIN YOUR DAY” and I could only be the human embodiment of the laugh-cry emoji
- Getting a new phone immediately the day after because I didn’t know if I could cope with the 5-hour coach ride back to Manchester without any form of distraction, accompanied only by my intrusive and self-abasing thoughts that would lead to god knows what.
- Feeling the highest degree of guilt and disappointment at myself for being so weak and pampered with the immediate remedy of a new replacement and not enough punishment because it seemed that I was angrier at myself than my parents even were.
- And yet unable to even fathom the rest of my days without my phone because it has always been the one thing connecting me to other people, the one thing that allows me to call for help anytime and anywhere especially when I am alone.
The tainting of The Thing aside, it was so great to see Janice again, a familiar face in a stringently foreign environment that still keeps me on my toes. It provided a warming sense of comfort made better with Malaysian food escapades at the Malaysian Hall and Roti King at Euston as well as a transatlantic Google hangout with Bellyn till 4AM.
Places don’t really mean anything, it’s the people that matter the most, and I keep thinking about this because if this is true, then what am I doing here?