I was born starving. As my mother tells it, I came out of her furious; I was fed then peacefully fell asleep. To this day, I often find hunger to be overpowering, a force that drives me more than anything else.
It is hunger for food, of course, but also hunger for everything else. I am driven by my yearning for all those eponymous things to do and places to be, propelled by my unquenchable thirst for shiny baubles and shinier people.
Lockdowns were hell and left me ravenous; in all those months and weeks I sat and waited, kept myself alive by thinking of the feasting that hopefully was to come.
Those fantasies felt uncomfortably physical. I wanted to run and climb and grab and kiss and jump and scream, like a toddler or a dog that really should not have been left unsupervised.
People talked of the roaring twenties because they had to cling on to something, and with them I pictured glitter and fizz, sweaty crowds and warm embraces, very high heels and the freedom of low expectations.
Lockdowns ended and I was ready to welcome to the world into my arms; I never wanted to see the inside of my flat again, and assumed everyone felt the same. Everyone did not feel the same.
I ran out of my front door and all I saw was people who decided to keep working from home, and who did not want to meet in central London on a drizzly Tuesday evening because they still worked from home.
I saw people who realised they did not enjoy spending all their time on the tube, and who preferred not to spend a third of their disposable income on flat lager. People who enjoyed spending their nights cooking in their own kitchens, and people who really did enjoy watching television until they fell asleep on the sofa.
I ran into Soho in April and it was empty; I ran down to Westminster and its streets were deserted. London has become fuller since, but still nowhere near as full as I was hoping it would be from day one.
My friends are going out again but they are going out less. Some have taken to cancelling on the day more often than not, and others will only make plans if said plans can happen within yards of their front door. I have only met a handful of people whose hunger for life seems to match mine.
It is odd because I sincerely did not see it coming, and wounding because it is hard for it not to be. I pictured us all running out of our front doors and, like animals, only going back in a few hours a night, to rest and bathe before doing it all over again.
London never really was the city that never sleeps but I assumed we would give it good go, at least for a few months, just to get it out of our systems. Isn’t everyone else bored to tears of the inside of their own heads? Clearly not. What does this say about the inside of my head?
I do not want to reach the conclusion that I am uniquely hollow, because I do not believe it to be the case, but how else to explain this discrepancy? What does it say about me that the only thing I learnt from this period of enforced isolation is that I love life even more than I thought I did? That I love people even more than I thought I did? That this deep, gnawing, constant hunger defines me even more than I thought it ever could?
In some ways, I worry that I feel lonelier now than I did when I was entirely alone. At least then, I thought that everyone else was alone and ravenous, counting down the minutes until we could all see and grab each other again, and not let go for a very long time.
Instead, I am mortified by my own neediness, and concerned it is starting to define me. Roll up, roll up; come witness the woman whose hunger cannot be sated, who stalks the streets of London when everyone is comfortably at home, having learnt to live a simpler and smaller life. Look out the window and you may spot her, lost in her neverending search for shiny baubles and shinier people.
Others moved on and were changed by the plague but she wasn’t; a ghost of parties past, she haunts the darkest corners of Soho, her head hollow and her stomach a bottomless pit which will never be filled.