Finally got motivated to write a story about one of my favorite adventures : London!
Did you know that when you fly those cheap flights between various European cities you don’t get peanuts? Nothing salted, nothing honey-roasted and definitely nothing that will parch your thirst.
I was dropped off at the one hall terminal in the very north of France by one of the farm hands. And just like how the rolling green hills of Brittany frolicked past the car window did they retreat underneath the wonky airplane’s wings. London, where they spoke English again would be my destination. After nine months in a country where grunts were affirmatives, I couldn’t wait to be in a land where they spoke my language in an ever more charming way than home. Although mum wouldn’t pick me up from the airport and whisk me off to my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, going to a sister country seemed almost just as comforting.
As I landed I was struck by its green charm, even just at the airport. As a converted outdoorswoman, my adventure lied elsewhere: the museums, the arts, the music, the buildings and of course, the music festival I had a ticket for. Now while I wish (now) that I could say that my independence in Old Britain was my idea, I can not take credit. Like a broken bride, I was left at the altar. My partner in crime had missed their flight. My first night in the city was hardly pleasant. I spent it pacing the dimly lit streets around Earl’s Court waiting for news on a flight arriving from Athens. Quickly, I became dependent on the hostel frontman sitting behind the glass window. I realize now that I had broken down his annoyance with me into simple pity as I practically sobbed in front of the Facebook screen that had no reply from my friend. He offered me a bowl of cereal and some tea. I refused three times. Finally, after my final effort by the bus station at four in the morning, I realized my emotional hunger and sat to calm down with some corn flakes and the company of a middle-aged Syrian man.
The meaning of life seems quite inconsequential in the early morning and thoughts of your friend dead in a plane crash, or on a bus, or kidnapped in a city we hardly know swirl through your head. However, he was adamant on hearing my philosophies and retorting with a painstaking showmanship. While I munched on the corn flakes that always get too soggy before your spoon hits the milk, questions and debates on purpose, enjoying simple pleasures and Tao theories flew through my worrying mind and only seemed to put salt in my wound.
“Are you happy?” he finally dared. How was I supposed to answer that?! Well, yes… I was? I thought so... But being a foreigner in a foreign country thinking your friend has died and thousands of miles from your American mum hardly makes it easy to think life is all roses. I couldn’t believe his prying eyes and words; my only response was a blubbering sob. I left the cereal for dead and excused myself with a haste. On the way to my room, I realized my possible over-reaction and rudeness and quit my sobbing immediately. Sometimes the greatest personal pep talk is just a simple snap and slap. The mascara partially smeared on the back of my hand would only serve as a reminder of my pact.
As I tucked my streaked face into crunchy hostel sheets and the snoring of large Australians lulled me to sleep I promised myself I would not let this trip be ruined. My friend would be fine, I would run around London in single solidarity and I would do bloody well as I pleased.
I awoke the next morning feeling hardly refreshed but determined to see what should be seen when one goes to London. Big Ben, check. Westminster Abbey, check. etc. etc. Perhaps what I fell in love with most were the strolls I navigated between all the sights; my map had been folded too many times and tore in crucial creases. I circled where I’d been and tracked the routes I took. However, a daytime later, my feet wore tired. I stumbled upon an interactive culture night at the National Portrait Gallery. They handed me a clipboard and instructed me to draw one of the paintings hanging on the wall. A General-of-High-Nobility, in an all white costume looked demeaningly at me as if knowing that I would never be able to recreate his greatness. However smug his grimace, his head was too small for his body that looked to stand only 5’2’’. His face was crow-like and the hook of his nose seamlessly graced his crooked upper lip while his jet black hair blended into the dark background. Drawing him became a challenge that he himself dared me to take on. I was not going to back down, this regal portrait of an unfortunate looking military man would be my bitch. I became so engrossed I failed to notice the room filling up or the teacher telling all the other participants to put away their supplies. When I came to, a jolly looking Canadian man approached me to show me his rendition. Rather than a leader of army, my curly hair sprung from the pages. He had drawn me.
I left the Gallery exhausted and enthralled. I had spent my entire day listening to music and only muttering single words when ordering coffees. I had convinced myself that my map and I had slipped into our own world that was not shared with anyone else. As the man showed me my cartooned self I realized that I was hardly invisible. And although I didn’t mind falling into silence or my personal daydreams, it was a lovely reminder that there still exists that greater whole. I’d like to have thought that I had fallen to insignificance amongst the great leaders hanging from picture frame hooks, but the Portrait Gallery seemed to have different plans.
Feeling satisfied, I went to go rest my feet and prepared myself for a whole different world.