Cold, dark nights in London, despite the movement, the life of the city.
Deep into the late hours of the night bus schedule, I ride on top of an empty double-decker bus, up front, with my forehead against the window. I watch the city come at me fast and I wonder things. At a crosswalk, a bloke looks up at me with confusion in his eyes. He shakes his head and keeps walking, like most people in this town. Tourists, he might think.
It seems that the percentage of people who speak English here is lower than the per capita in Geneva…I wonder if that makes sense. Everywhere I look I see grey clouds, sickly rain and buildings covered in soot. I wonder if I caught it on a bad week or if someone ever opens the curtains and lets the light into this place. I see the blurred outline of a cityscape that seems to go on forever. I wonder if it does.
Whatever. I’ve got enough problems.
Having rolled my ankle a couple nights ago has made my – outings, I guess – slightly more difficult. At the cost of some pain and discomfort, I maintain my breakneck speed to see and experience all I can think of, but I find that the night for me winds down earlier than before, and that my pace back to the hotel is dramatically more apathetic, and replete with pauses and entrances into local pubs. When I finally sit and write, I sink lower into my chair and the ink comes out more slowly than before; the drink is thicker and works more deeply. It’s as if time is an evaporating lake, drying up fast.
This is not a good sign.
Usually this means that something is coming to an end, whether it’s this trip, my will or a whole slew of other things. This is an open door to dark thoughts and it casts a shadow of doubt on a lot of things by which I define myself, things that have undergone an unexpected challenge in the weeks past. I wander and I roam, aimlessly and without fervor, in no particular hurry. I pace though time and the streets of London and other European places that are ancient as they are foreign. I drink their ales; I eat their fish & chips, their roasts, their boiled somethings. I see their cathedrals and their palaces, their tubes, their taxis. I hear their language and their accents. I meet characters in a story I didn’t realize I was telling — and one of them may be me. I hear their jokes and I smile. I present a pleasant enough face to strangers, I’m sure, but inside I am mostly dark thoughts. In this place, everything is mysterious and unexplored — foreign to the eyes of men.
Bah, don’t listen to me — you don’t need this kind of negativity. I’m just stuck figuring some things out.
You may not understand what I’m talking about — and that’s ok. I’ve come to not expect much sympathy and compassion. After all, most people don’t roam places at night when they should be asleep, like I do. They don’t feel a tug into the dark places of the Earth, like I have. They don’t step out for a sandwich at 7 at night and find themselves across town by the MI6 building on the southern banks of the Thames at 11, looking for a tube station because they didn’t mind their feet and were taken to a place from which there is no hope of return on a busted ankle. Exposing oneself to that sort of reckless abandon – not to obvious issues of self restraint, but rather to the common sense aspects of social civility – well, that changes a person. If you can go there and get back again, the world doesn’t look the same to you.
And judging from the prodding eyes of the people — and there are so goddamn many of them – the feeling is mutual.