I open the blinds and introduce my hangover to the sun. The alcohol from last night’s celebration has abandoned me and left a migraine in its wake. My clothes sprawl on the floor instead of the closet. My socks rest on the television. My shoes lay in the shower. How did that happen?
My train to Stonehenge leaves in a few hours and I’m still peeling the pieces of me from my bed. The sun shines through the window, the clock reads 12:30PM and I think of a line from an Atmosphere song:
“The sunlight hit me dead in the eye like it’s mad I gave half the day to last night.”
Juan knows this line. He played it for me once in California. He use to walk down the streets after leaving the bar, beat boxing and rapping. We would fall over each other on the sidewalks and laugh into the moon with our drunk faces on. He always quoted Atmosphere songs, even though his original rhymes were far better. If he were here now, his hangover would be worse. He might even open a beer to cure the pain, or would walk to the corner store to buy a few cups of coffee, talking about life and the girls to see and the places to go and all the ways we could torture time into letting us be free of its hourly thaw.
I climb the steps to Victoria Coach Station shortly before the tour bus arrives to take me to Stonehenge. The rain falls on the platform. A middle-aged woman takes an interest in my accent. The smoke from her cigarette finds my hangover- buried deep in my skull- and threatens to pull it out of my throat in the form of vomit. I leave her before she sees what I ate for dinner last night.
The tour bus arrives. My seat reclines, and I collapse in and out of sleep for the next two hours. In between dreams, I open the occasional eye to watch the London countryside pass by in fluffs of rolling hillsides covered in yellow flowers. I listen to the windshield wipers furiously beat themselves onto the glass of the bus. I catch the horrid whiff of the man in front of me who smells like body odor mixed with carcinogens. I hear the women behind me speak in a language that sounds like pinballs dropped from the 100th floor on to a tin roof.
The driver finally parks the bus in an empty lot. We assemble outside the bus and the rain continues to slip off the cheeks of the grey clouds; it meets the land in thunderclaps and puddles. Everyone has prepared for the storm. Hoodies and umbrellas pop open but all I brought is a thin jacket. The only pair of jeans I have left begins to sag from the weight of the rain and my shoes become swimming pools for my feet. We wait in a line near the entrance to Stonehenge and a worker walks up and down the aisle, telling people there’s no smoking inside. The body odor man makes a joke about stones catching fire. I could laugh, but the smell of this guy overpowers my sense of humor.
A short walk under a bridge leads me to Stonehenge. The archaic formation sleeps in a massive field of green that mixes naturally with the opaque, stormy sky. Sheep graze in the grasses of the Salisbury Plains to my right, a collection of trees interspersed in the land wane with the wind in the distance, and the people who came with me on the bus look at Stonehenge for a few minutes, then forsake their rainy photo sessions to take refuge in the gift shop near the entrance, where they buy plastic figurines that cost $10.
Then I have Stonehenge all to myself.
The rain continues to fall; it goes pitter-patter but I forget to feel it. The audiobook given to all of us by the tour guide hangs lifelessly quiet from a string around my neck. I think about all the myths and theories surrounding Stonehenge and forget all of them because being in the mere presence of this place is more glorified than speculations read in archaeology classes or photos seen in picture books. I inhale very deeply for the next hour. At one point, the sun, which fled the field long before I arrived, understands my eagerness to preserve this moment and decides to show its face, arming Stonehenge in a shield of yellow which holds off the storm and gives my memory the illumination it needs to stay in tact forever. I walk around every inch of the grounds, and think it sad that the people working here have had to place a line of rope around the stones to keep people from getting too close. I traveled half the world to get here. If I want to touch the damn stones, I should be able to touch them. The sun fades away again and I am left with the beautiful rain soaking me to the bone, with Stonehenge staring me straight in the eye like it is having a conversation with me using the rain as its voice.
The bus driver ends up ushering me back to the bus before I am ready to leave. He makes a comment about adhering to a strict time-table. I unwillingly trudge back to the bus, where everyone else is busy looking at their figurines instead of trying to get one last peek at Stonehenge. The trip back to London is pleasant. I read and write and tune out the annoying sounds and smells around me before we get back to the station. I exit the bus and catch a few pints at a nearby pub. The ale tastes sweet, but not as sweet as the memory of visiting historic Stonehenge.
Later in the evening I go to a Milo Greene concert near King’s Cross. The ambiance is nice and dark and full of the kind of music you can write to. I compose more stories in my head while listening to the show, and leave around midnight with the rain still pelting down on me from the charcoal black sky.
Back at my flat, I rummage through the photos I took, still mesmerized that I was able to visit the stones, even more amazed that Stonehenge was able to rid me of my hangover. I sleep peacefully with the window open, drifting off to the sounds of rainfall, and wake in the morning to the sunlight shining so beautifully through the blinds, like it’s welcoming me, and only me, to another beautiful day here in London.