Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Traveling back to London--on the Tube

Since we're finally back to the chaos we call our 'normal' (meaning kids moving home, mowers off to the fields, people coming and going as only those in their mid-twenties can go), I'm also back to my 'normal' routine. That is, I thought I'd return to my "Time-traveling Tuesday" and take you back to my pre-marriage backpacking trip through Europe when I was in MY mid-twenties.

Depending on your point of view, it's either ironic or appropriate that I was (still) in London when this entry was written. In fact,  as we've been 'in' London these last ten days for the Olympics, my daughters and I have all felt a certain knowledge of where things are located, because of our (relatively short, in all honesty) stays there.

One last note, I beg you to remember that I was that young woman in my mid-twenties. A single young woman. You understand? Of course you do. Good.

Thursday, 14 October, 1982
Bromden House

Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben (met some nice people on the street who said, "I knew it!" when I said I was from Washington) Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Savoy (we walked in, but were too intimidated to eat--sorry Mom, just couldn't pull it off in our too-casual touring cothes. My REI jacket was a dead give-away!) We checked travel plans to Oxford and points north (the agent is a really nice man who joked with us about going to dinner). Ate dinner at a place called 'Rick's Cafe' Americana'--Hello Bogart!. Walked past the National Gallery and St Martins in the Field, to Picadilly. I'm definitely seen out now. Ready to simply ride a train.

At both St. Paul's and Westminster, priests offered prayers and asked for a moment of silence while we said the Lord's Prayer. Then they blessed us. The second time--at St. Paul's--I felt that blessing. It came straight down from the Christ-stained glass above the altar, like the Lord guided us there at His hours to hear those words, to remind us of His presence with us.  Those words from above were juxtaposed to what people do to temples, creating God in man's image, a god they can trade in on. While He can be light in our darkness, people turn His real light into a darkened place, perhaps.
Praying together this morning changed the hue of the day. Suddenly a host of blessing--from the first man who directed us to Buckingham Palace to the agent who stayed late to help us plan our Brit-rail tour. And we keep stumbling into beauty. Or Beauty. Wow. It overwhelms the senses, the architected glory here along the Themes.
Why don't people talk on the tubes?
Sitting here beside you
rattling wheels, passing minutes
Behind your face, what are the sounds of your life?
Minutes pass
Your image vanishes with a swishing door
As the wheels speed on

Dingy station
herds shoving (like cattle)
never speaking
always moving
flickering gazes--
'quick, avert your eyes!'

Are you afraid to look at me?
Are you afraid of a real meeting
As the rattling wheels
pass the time
Afraid of communication
that might reach beyond
the dingy station
mobs of people
silent trains
to a place where
you see me
As I see you?

The man stood next to her, gripping the metal bar. She, knowing the rules, could not look at him, so stared at his hand above her head with the golden hairs sticking up on his knuckles. She reached up as though she needed steadying, and placed her hand a small distance away from his, measuring how puny and weak her fingers compared to his.  She caught his eyes once as she glanced at the golden hair on his head that matched his hand. His face reflected--sturdy jaw, strong gaze--the same grip he had on the iron. She lowered her eyes to her feet for a moment. Took a breath. Then felt his hand slide closer to hers on the bar overhead. Solid oxford, no pointy punk for him, she thought. He didn't care what the latest trend was. She stared out the window, wondering what he saw, how he lived, who he was behind that superficial strength. Did he like good books--his clothes spoke of learning--and impulsive acts--like a woman asking him to dinner out of the blue on a silent train--and quiche?  Years from now she imagined telling their grandchildren, "I broke the rule and met your grandfather on the Picadilly line." She closed her eyes and willed him to look at her, then opened them as he did. She blushed and looked away. The train slowed, stopped. Earl's Court. She waited, hoping at least for his voice, at most for him to walk off first, or with her. An instant later, she stood on the platform, wondering why she couldn't have once broken the silence of the Picadilly Line.

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