So, today was one of the more stressful days in my life. Today challenged me in new ways. It was one awfully good day in fact. A cold that I thought I had finished fighting off the last 3 weeks decided it wanted to go into the 12th round with me AND has come back with a second wind and vengeance. But I’ve beaten it once before! Partly because I’m trying to cough up my insides, and partly because I am lacking on sleep, I obviously didn’t want to leave my bed, and I definitely didn’t want to see people. However, can’t do that because I had a project in school that I had to be there for. Despite feeling tired and sick, I still found a way to get up. It took everything for me to roll out of bed, leaving me with no time for breakfast and an uncomfortably quick walk to the tube. I started my day with some exercise. For those of you who don’t know, the tube is an underground railway system in London, which is exactly what it sounds like; a tube crammed full of sweaty people all trying to get somewhere. Now, early in the mornings the tube can be crowded. I knew that, BUT I did not expect it to be this crowded. People were so smushed together that we practically all became family or looked like we were trying to start one. I met a lot of new people in one day and we all got to know each other pretty well. At one point I was in the middle of a crowd with no rail to hold on to and I was just bouncing along with everyone like I was in a mosh pit at a concert. Multiple bags, briefcases and purses slapped against my butt from unknown sources and when I finally bobbed my way out of the middle, I found myself in a worse position; my face pressed against the glass window looking like a fool. It was an interesting ride full of lots of experiences that I’ll remember for a while. This was just one tube of 6 that I would ride on this awfully good day. All day it felt like I never left the tube; crammed next to people in a huge city with no space to think or breathe. Even though it felt a little crowded at times, I got to meet a lot of different people exploring London as well. I felt hot and irritable all day. I still wasn’t feeling the best but that wasn’t stopping me. The project that I had to be there for went terribly well, and for my other class we were in a museum, which was essentially just a stationary tube with prettier sights. However, that’s when things peaked for my day as in the middle of class I felt my gut turn over inside me, as if kindly letting me know that it was giving me about 5 minutes before it ejected everything from my stomach. Sticky heat was clung to me. I felt pasty and desperate and knew I had to get out of there. I tried my best to play it cool and let a classmate know I wasn’t feeling well, and as soon as I did, I took off. Sprinting passed confused museum-goers and horrified faces as I held my hand over my mouth forcing myself to keep everything inside. I burst into the bathroom and practically dove into a stall and let it rip. There I sat for a moment, listening to my stomach to see if there was more, and reflecting on my life and how I got there. In my rush I left the stall door open so that other men could see me clung to the toilet looking exasperated and defeated. I got sick and threw up, but the good news is I made it to a toilet and felt a little better afterwards. It could have been a lot worse! Finally, I left there, and the day ended slightly better and how most nights end; with my favorite house guest, Procrastination, leaving and Reality coming back to remind that despite how tired and sick I am, and how awfully good of a day I had, there’s a lot to do. Today was assurance that perspective matters.
When in London, I can’t help but overindulge, especially in Covent Garden. Before my eyes is a feast of colors, culture, and people. Yes, the people! I love the them the most. I’m fully entranced by the street performers putting on magic shows, executing magnificent acrobatic feats, or making music. I am absorbed by the swelling crowds of tourists who swarm around these performers with their camera phones pointed at the action. An ocean of swirling dialects and diverse colors crash around me like waves. Swimming through them, I am eventually channeled out into open space spotted with the more local folks who are on a mission in the city. They walk with purpose, with determination, with confidence. Lining benches and any free steps are groups of visitors from where I can only imagine to be every corner and crevice of the world. Some groups are shaking in the brisk air, unprepared for the chilly weather, while others gather at coffee shops for some liquid gold to warm them. The people provide the tone and their culture, the flavor, against the grey backdrop of London architecture. Brick roads meet stone buildings and blend effortlessly into a matching sky. There is the occasional splotch of color on a building, usually clay reds but sometimes vibrant blues or pinks. Crisp corners and defined outlines shape the structures, breaking form only by the supporting round pillars that reach up into arches. Flowers in crates like garnishes dot the paths and nature can be seen on doors framed with foliage. But another treasure lies in the heart of the square. It is in the apple market where past and present combine. The market seems to beat with intensity and throb with opportunity. The old style of the outdoor market has found its way inside in a space that produces a feeling of openness as well as crowdedness. It is here where all the smells and sounds seem to gather and present themselves like a main course to me. It is here that I smell fresh cookies mixed with Chanel perfumes and the odor of sleep deprived travelers. It is here where the calls of children and hollers of street performers blend over the low rumble of conversation. Every sound takes on vibrant colors that swirl around me, and every sight I can feel move through me. Each sense tingles inside, overwhelmed after being starved for so long. It is here, among these senses and the people that I feel at the heart of London and finally satisfy my cravings.
He often wonders, if it’s obvious that he is not from here. His look, his walk, what will give it away today? Hopefully, he believes, that one day the only foreign sign will be the reflected wonder that flickers in his eyes as he looks in awe at the city of London, trying to comprehend its novelty. The same glinted gaze that only he knows about when reading a book on a park bench in Brenton Cross. When quiet hangs in the open like fog, trapped between emerald green grass and the smoggy ash sky. Or the same senses that tingle through him when he finds himself just enjoying his walk down Oxford street. With no destination, no concerns, absorbing every detail, and feasting on everything the city has to offer. Walking through puffs of cigarette smoke, past pubs bursting with the clamor of conversation and clanks of business, and by the brightly lit signs of theaters, he begins to fade into the people. He acknowledges the beauty and bliss in all these moments. As time goes on the mundane actions of his old life like transportation, shopping, studying, working, all become lively and exciting adventures in his new environment. He begins to wander less. He starts to know his way and walk with a more determined step and confident gait past confused tourists and stride for stride with the locals. Finding his way to his usual coffee shop for a steaming cup of tea or his favorite pub for a cold beer and chips becomes routine. He keeps beat with the city. However, it is not above him to occasionally ride the tube to an uncharted destination and get off. Here, he explores with a naïve composition. He gets lost, resorting back to unsure movements, but along the way passes the fresh smells of restaurants undiscovered by him, extraordinary and breath-taking architecture, and he begins to become over-taken by the feeling, the spark and tingling of his senses, as if he is uncovering the city for the first time.