I finished my bottle of wine and read with one eye closed. The words blurred together. I switched eyes but they still blurred together.
A girl with a tattoo on her shoulder smiled at me. I saw that well enough; affection has a steady stare. I gave her my name. She gave me hers. The London Eye spun more tourists around. She asked about my accent. I asked about hers. All those people on the wheel continued to spin. I said California. She said Manchester.
She told me about her life.
She finished in ten sentences.
I told her that couldn’t be all.
We walked down the river and smoked a few cigarettes. She asked about my shoes. I asked about her necklace. The river washed by us; the green-blue waters slammed against the old brick wall. We stopped for lunch; I was thankful for that. Any longer and she would have heard my hunger growl- never romantic; always a shame.
She asked about my dimples.
I asked about her hair.
She asked what life was like half a world away.
I asked what life was like now.
We watched the London Eye churn the tourists. It had one red carriage mixed in with all the white ones. Every time that red carriage made a full circle thirty minutes had passed. I watched it make four full circles by the time we stopped talking. She left when the sun hid behind the clouds. Her suggestive white skirt flipped away in the wind.
The rain came, then.
I had fallen asleep and woke to it sprinkling on my face and in my hair. Everyone left the park, but I stayed. The rain felt nice, like a feather drop. I let it collect in beads on my shirt until the beads turned into puddles. My shirt was soaked. I had forgotten to wear rain-proof clothing.
I found a place that served warm coffee. I didn’t order the coffee, but ordered a pint of ale. I drank and watched the sun come and go from behind the clouds, like it couldn’t make up its mind. Shadows attacked and retreated on the south bank cement; millions of shadows gave way to millions of rays; millions of rays gave way to millions of shadows. I ordered another pint of ale.
The boats on the river continued to float by, filled with people who thought cameras were more important than their eyes. Flags flew from the boats, mostly the Union Jack. The river carried all of them and crammed them into a blur of white and red. Maybe they were blue and black. The alcohol wasn’t helping.
I caught a train some time later and sardined myself in the rush hour commute. A man next to me said something in a foreign language and looked at me. Did he want a response? I never gave him one, just opened my knapsack and looked at the bottle of cider I had stored there. I could have opened it on the train. But a mother and her child were sitting across from me, so I smiled and saved my drink until I found a bench near Hyde Park.
After the cider was gone, and after I had smoked my last cigarette, I wandered around the grass until I found a nice place for a cheap meal. The Polish guy at the counter had to ask me the same question four times before I understood what he was saying. He gave me my change and muttered something. I think I heard American fall from his distasteful lips.
I walked back to my flat and found it as I had left it; tidy, unmarred. I turned on the television and turned it off a few seconds later. I turned on my computer and read more electronic letters from home. Then the sleep took me- the precious sleep- and I woke to the moon outside of my window. A few drunk people below spoke about things I didn’t care about. I went for a nice walk in the moonlight and found a man on the corner vomiting. I wondered if anyone would clean the mess; more likely it would stay there until it corroded.
I pondered the purpose of life, and deemed my walk more important than the man spilling his midnight meal on the pavement. I walked back home and felt more alive, like that man had verified my vacation in this London town.
Then I wrote a few things to you. I kept those words in my unpublished journal and fell asleep to the moon and the television on mute. I dreamt of the next day, when I would wake to the sunshine in London- if I was lucky- and how I would make the most of the precious minutes I would spend living the next chapter of my life…