There are people that you are immediately drawn to because of a single image, a single glance. Your eyes meet for the first time, and your heart palpitates stronger and stronger until you are convinced the tension is audible. Somewhere in your heart, you knew that you were meant to be connected, to be soulmates, and to experience the best of tragedies together.
London became not my tragedy, but my travesty. My college dream was to spend a month abroad in London studying Shakespeare- back when I had the literary love and passion that corporate culture has since taken. With a lack of funds, time, and the heart to tear myself away from family for 30 days, my dream never actualized.
“Skb, what do you think about going to London for a few days?” My heart was pounding at the thought of finally traveling to the city that I knew I was destined to love. Trying to remain calm and collected, I replied to my Director, “Sure, I would be open to that. Let me know once the details are firm.” I quickly left his office, and retreated to my own. YES, LONDON, HERE I COME! But within every perfect story is its tragedy: my dream trip was to be a mere 24 hours.”You probably shouldn’t even go on this trip. It’s going to be tiring, and pointless,” was the common sentiment. But because I am the ultimate corporate trooper, I said yes. …Who the hell am I kidding- I said YES! Yes, I am going to London because it has been my absolute dream to meet the love of my life. And so, my first solo trip to London, let alone Europe, was spawned.
Jetlag was taking it’s toll. I woke up at 5AM following a whirlwind day of meetings and site visits. Too excited to sleep, I began planning the remaining 12 hours. I posted a Facebook status moments before my flight took off from EWR calling for advice: what’s the one thing I MUST do in London? Buried beneath the well wishes for a safe flight, “have fun!”, and “why are you there for 24 hours” was a simple “london eye” from an acquaintance. Suddenly resonating with me, I perked up to purchase tickets. Virtually every other review on Trip Advisor mentioned queue times of up to three hours. Missing my flight for the London Eye? Not quite an acceptable thing to tell your boss. “An extra nine pounds it is…” I said to myself as I hit Purchase. Satisfied with my quick thinking, and inability to realize nine pounds converted to US Dollars was a damn ripoff for priority access, I closed my laptop. The morning would start in Hyde Park.
Every muscle of my body ached from walking around Covent Garden, Westminster, and Borough Market- hoarding souvenirs from each. Among the favorites was from Covent Garden: I had stockpiled 3D puzzle kits of the iconic London Bus. The walking, and lack of sleep was giving off a sleep drunk effect. Defeated, I sat on a bench and watched as a man rode a unicycle for money. He was drawing a sizable crowd as he begun juggling pins. I pulled out my phone and opened a confirmation email. “Ugh, I paid for this, I need to go on it.” Out went my hand, and in went my ass to the ridiculously expensive black cab ride to the London Eye.
Priority access, I must admit, was eventually worth that $15+ USD. When you’re in a time crunch, and want to see the tourist death traps of a city, pay up. I was whisked away from booth to booth until the security woman right before boarding the London Eye stopped me. “What is this bottle,” she asked while shaking and tapping vigorously. “Whiskey….” She half smirked at my wide eyed expression of Holy shit, she just confiscated my 50 GBP whiskey. “Take this ticket, and you’ll get it back later.”
Boarding the capsule terrified me. For a non swimmer with a fear of heights, getting on something high above a sea of water is panic inducing. My eyes were focused on the platform beneath the capsule. It couldn’t have been more than a meter long. I gawked at it wondering whether or not it would break my fall. “Go now!” shouted the attendant in an English accent that made everything in the world right again. I took a giant step into the capsule, and the doors vacuum sealed behind me. In this moment, I like to imagine Loki as he is ushered into a chamber aboard the Avenger’s aircraft.
Everywhere I turned was another couple nuzzling their noses against each other. Their hands were consumed in each other’s back pocket. A small area facing the historic side of London was unoccupied. Unnerved by the romantic vibe, I walked across and stationed myself there. With a bit of personal space to myself, I heaved a sigh of relief and starred out. The tension was gone. London was before me in all of its glory. Yes, the River Thames was absolutely disgusting with its brown, murky waters. But Big Ben! Parliament! Tower Bridge! I was truly becoming that tourist: unable to contain their happiness, and snapping photos for the sake of it. As I took a photo of Buckingham Palace, my phone froze from the intensity of the pictures. Forced to pause, I looked around the capsule and saw a replica of myself in everyone else immersed in picture taking. The biggest struggle of being inundated with gadgets becomes the inability to live in the moment. We take photos not to relive the moment, but for the best “liked” social media post. Guilty of that, I tragically am.
I had achieved my dream of London, and it dawned that I was missing it all. 24 hours was drawing to a close. This was my soulmate, and it was time for me to take in what was before me. I put my phone away, and learned my arms across the railing. The peace of mind was incredible as I realized it was time to appreciate the historical metropolis beauty around me. My heart peaked when the capsule reached the top. London, I can’t explain it, but I absolutely love you. A travesty in my own mind because I assumed one trip would be enough. But soon enough, I will return. Again, and again.