London is alive. You cannot know what it will be like until you stand on its streets in one precise moment in time and breathe the air. It proves predictable in a way with its jumble of ancient brick and futuristic glass making an odd sort of mosaic, but each moment you discover a new London. Each breath in brings you something new that flips your vision of it on its face.
Four years ago I flitted in and out of this city, every moment imprinting a new image and reality on my mind. Now, as I walk along the Thames and over the tower bridge, I see those same images with a transformed London behind them. An older London, a London without the shine on. A London with dirt in its ditches and cold in its joints.
My vision is not changed because this was not the London I walked through before, but because I too have dirt built up.
We are both more beautiful for it.
Gravitating towards the Thames, our feet took us over the London Bridge, then sweeping towards the Tower of London. Curling back and around into the smaller streets of Southwark, we slipped into The Rose, drawn by the wood paneling, quiet murmurs, and promise of foaming pints.
Tucking ourselves into a corner, we held our pints with thumb and ring finger, enjoying the weight of the glasses. Setting mine back on the copper tabletop I tried to adjust to the language. Mouths all around us would open with sound pouring out and moments later I would realize that I could understand their meaning. How could I have forgotten how effortlessly I can partake in this miracle?
As evening pretended to come early and the streets filled with gray suits walking home from work, the room began to fill and the hubbub brought in even more. Standing knots of men opened and closed again as people pushed their way to the bar and returned with carefully balanced ales.
Both in publishing, they sat back in their chairs, conversation flowing easily. His face and open gestures welcomed her closer. Her sleeve kept slipping softly off the top of her shoulder. She stopped putting it back, perhaps aware that the light from the window accentuated her collar bone and the softness under her ear.
How I have missed sitting and fishing for stories in the pool of words around me.