Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part three

Part One : Part Two

Standing and walking back to the small market, where travellers sell their trinkets—back to the coach depot. A juice bar, which looks out over the station is perfect for the short wait. I order something to justify me sitting in their window. I giggle. I laugh. The man behind the counter laughs and giggles too, all it is, is a smoothie, why are we laughing so much? I hand him a few quid. He hands me a very cold, blended cup of deliciousness.  Heading to the long table, I look out. People step off busses, some coming home and some going on vacation. The old couple: taking that long awaited trip they always promised to do, once their kids were grown—at least that’s the story I invent for them as they step onto the bus for London Heathrow.  There are a handful of young lovers. Me being almost thirty, just smile at them, remembering what it was like that first time I fell in love. I watch as he kisses her on the cheek, they wrap up into each other like corresponding yen & yang. That kind of love, that naïve young “we are the only ones in the room” love I’ll never get back—I’ve buried that hope too deep after the last time.

My phone beeps, time for another picture. Every day, at the same time I take a picture, my way of chronicling my travels over the last year.   I lift my phone, take a selfie, and look over the brim to see my A. Our eyes meet and my thoughts of lost lovers melt from my mind.

I guess I should give you a description of A. On this day the sun was shining, a rarity I’m told in England, so his blonde hair gave off just a hint of red. Though, he’ll claim anything other than him having any sort of ginger in his hair. “It’s a dirty blonde!” he’d say. The blue oxford shirt he wore, sleeves rolled to his elbows, fitted him ever so nicely. And as he ducks into the shop his smile is so wide it’s contagious. If you saw him on the street, I’m not sure how you’d feel. For me, my heart beats a little faster, and my vision tends to blur around the edges. I always say, if I were to write him into a novel, he would be the perfect villain, one you’d never see coming. So calm, sweet, quiet, yet powerful, I can always see his mind working behind those oceanic coloured eyes.

“How was the trip?” I ask.

“Long. And I travelled so light this time that I didn’t even bring my Kindle, so it was bit boring too. Thankfully I had you to text!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!”

A. laughs, “there’s no need for you to be sorry! It was my fault.”

“But I am, I mean, I can be empathetic for you.”

“Okay,” he chuckles, “you can be sorry for me.”

“Are you hungry? I’ve been sipping on this,” I shake the now empty plastic cup, “but I’m sure you’re probably hungry by now.”

“I could eat. What’s around here?”

“No clue.”

“But you’ve been here for a whole two hours more than me! Are you not an expert by now?”

I laugh, “no.”

“But what have you been doing?”

I reach into my purse and pull out the heavily used Moleskin notebook. I hold it up.

“And? Let me see what you drew.”

“Well, I was sketching one of the churches,” I open the notebook, flipping through the pages to find the few ink sketches I drew earlier.

A. leans in as I point. “I love this,” he says and points to the church window detail only to laugh a few seconds later pointing at the birds, “and this is where you said sod it, I’m adventuring!”

I laugh so hard because it is true. We sit and chat for a bit but before long, his belly starts to talk and we decide: it’s time for food.

For a Thursday afternoon, Oxford has a lot of people. I don’t do well with a lot of people. Well, to be fair, I fear getting separated from my party in a crowd. Chalk it up to one really bad experience in San Francisco during a parade where at one point, I had to seriously contemplate how a person was sitting on a fire-hydrant. We talk as we dodge through the crowd. But I can feel myself being overwhelmed. I grab the back of his shirt, cloth between my fingers just below the curve of his shoulder blades and tug. He stops and turns. “I can’t handle the people. Let’s get Pret and find somewhere away from this. Is that okay?” A. nods and we step into Pret a Manger to pick up some sandwiches. A few more quick steps and we duck down into an alley just to see where it led.

“Is this better?” he asks. I nod. “I’m not sure where this ends up though; I’ve never been in Oxford before.”

“It’s fine, getting lost is one of the best parts of a new city.”

A. laughs, “I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.”

“It is! You get lost. Find your way back out. You see the most interesting things this way, and you’ll always know where to go after that.”

The alleyway opens up to a street with one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. One of the Oxford colleges with a stone gate that ran the length of the road, every ten meters or so a small wooden door with large metal rivets set inside the stone. We both stopped. I took out my phone and snapped a picture. A. says, “Okay, I love Cambridge. But Oxford has better architecture.”

“See, you wouldn’t have found this if we didn’t get lost.” And then I realise, I have an iPhone. “Oh! I’m so stupid sometimes! We can find a park.” Within a few clicks, Google Maps was running, “just on the other side of that wall is a garden,” I said. We walk up to one of the wooden gates, “let’s see.”

“I don’t think we can go through those,” he said.

“No harm in trying.” My hand wraps around the warm metal, black smithy moulded iron which sunlight touched all day. I push. It doesn’t budge. A. laughs.


“Well, according to this,” I show him the map, “if we just follow the street and stay to the right we should run into it.”

It however, was not just a garden, nor just a park. It was the Botanical Gardens of Oxford. I may be a writer, however, years of writing post-apocalyptic science fiction stories does not prepare one for describing something so beautiful. We walk along the river chuckling at the punters. Without the tall buildings around us the wind blows through my clothes. I shiver.

“We should sit in the sun,” he says.

I agree and we find a place, just off the path overlooking a massive field of dancing green grass. When the wind blows, it almost looks like ocean waves. We sit. I sit slightly closer than I probably should to A. I blame being cold. Though, I can also blame the fact that he is so attractive.

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