June 5, 2014
Kentish Town. Steve and I head out of our B&B like the walking dead. In the past non-stop thirty hours (traveling between three countries), we have slept all of two. But London awaits us, and we cannot let her wait any longer. We walk about a block down to a bus stop, and within ten minutes a giant, red double-decker pulls up to the curb. As we settle into the upper section, I gaze out of the glass-top roof. I wonder if I am dreaming (sleeping) and am tempted to physically pinch myself. I smile groggily at Steve and he smiles back. The bus drives along at a pleasant rock-a-by pace.
Bloomsbury. Within five minutes, we hit rush-hour about two miles from the city center. Soon, my head finds its way to Steve’s shoulder. I gaze out the windows sleepily as the contemporary and classic buildings blend together like a watercolor painting and then… I get bumped awake. I lift my head and look at Steve. It’s obvious he’s half-asleep, too. I place my head back on his shoulder and feel Steve’s head slouch against mine.
“We can’t both fall asleep,” I mutter.
“Yeah, that probably wouldn’t be good,” Steve whispers.
I sigh deeply and try to will my eyelids to stay open. “We need food,” I remark in my sleep state. I shake myself awake and notice that we are moving along an inch at a time.
“Blooms-bury,” an electronic British woman’s voice echoes throughout the bus. Steve pulls the driver call. We force ourselves to stand up and leave the bus, and then make our way to a Subway Restaurant on the other side of the street. Although we would rather eat Beef Wellington or something else deliciously English, exchanging American money for British pounds has shocked us immediately into economic-mode.
After eating, we feel a little more human and start to head in the general direction of the city center, towards the Thames River. London is a beautiful and remarkably clean city. Every fifty feet or so, to my delight, we come across a tall, cherry red phone booth. I’m generally not a city girl, but I find myself really taking London in. Some of these buildings are older than my entire country, for God-sakes. The modern electronic billboards seem like they should clash against the ancient buildings, but instead they just create more interest. We pass English pubs, spouting fountains, museums (most of which are free entry, by the way), more pubs, stony statues, more pubs… we’re tempted to stop for a pint, but we are officially on a mission. We walk, and we walk, and we walk some more. My body feels as though it might fail beneath me.
London. My entire being wakes up when I see the face I have been dreaming of since childhood. Big Ben looms in the distance, above the golden Parliament buildings, sitting on the bank of the calming Thames. Its many peaks point towards the sky, inviting onlookers to lose themselves in the cotton-candy clouds. The sun is setting in the distance which gives everything a dreamlike glow. My mind cannot help but imagine a boy dancing on its hour hand, bouncing upwards.
My obsession with Peter Pan goes way, way back, as any healthy obsession usually does. When I was seven, I had the most vivid dream I have ever had to date; Peter Pan flew in through my window, gave me some fairy dust, taught me how to fly, and led me to Neverland. This dream was so vivid that I really and truly believed I had this experience. When I woke up for school the next morning, I found some loose glitter (fairy dust) in my drawer and was convinced it was left for me. The next thing I remember is being at recess and telling the whole story to a group of kids. While they loudly proclaimed their doubts and laughed haughtily, I threw glitter all over myself (while thinking happy thoughts) and ran as fast as I could. Right before I jumped up with all of my might, I remember thinking something along the lines of “this will show them!” Of course, I landed on the ground with a heavy thud and a bruised spark.
In any case, my love of Peter prevailed into adulthood. I began to analyze this strange story of a boy who literally lives outside of the constraints of time, and I began to realize that it is not just a simple children’s tale. Peter is a boy who lives in the moment, adventure to adventure. For Pan, it is, indeed, all in the journey. To me, this is mecca, enlightenment, and Truth (with a capital T) all rolled into one. Living in the present moment is what I constantly aim (and fail) to do. It is human nature to always be working for the future, rushing toward some goal, looking for the outcome; but what’s the point? Every single one of our destinations is the same, so it is imperative that we enjoy the journey. With Peter, there is no destination nor any boundaries of time.
It’s as if Pan is mocking time, sticking his tongue out at it, when he dances on Big Ben’s slowly moving hands. How wonderfully effortless it would be to live in the present with his kind of reality.
As my past with Peter plays in a flash across my mind, Steve and I gaze at the beautiful London skyline from Westminster Bridge. There isn’t a word that can accurately describe what I’m feeling. The sun peaks playfully over the west bank, reflecting the colors of dusk off the water. My fatigue mixes with the absolute high of being in a new place that both is and isn’t what I thought it would be. Of course, I’ve seen pictures of this skyline, watched documentaries and movies set here, read and heard others talk about this place; but living it is like accessing a whole different type of knowledge.
I flew towards the second star to the right, went straight on till morning; and now, I have arrived.