thoughtwisps One commit at a time

to be loved but not by anyone

Author’s note: This piece is from a notebook I kept during my London years between June and November 2018. The title of the notebook is: “London and other soulscapes of modern life”. I considered titling this piece “what we lost to the screens” but realised it didn’t really capture what I wanted to convey. The original notebook text has been slightly edited for clarity and completeness.

a chance encounter among strangers a chance encounter among strangers

I came to London to be loved but not by (just) anyone.

I came here to be lost among millions and then to be found by that one, for in a city of millions what could be more erotic than two strangers, meeting by chance, in a fleeting glance or an accidental brush of the arm on the rush hour Tube or in the morning latte queue at one of those crowded hipster cafes.

Because I am afflicted with an overly active imagination, over time, this (tall, dark) stranger came to have a certain shape and form, certain clothes (the generic uniform of a man working a generic job in the City) and a slightly crooked smile (this particular feature generously supplied by the imagination of thirteen-year-old me and a certain novel - at least in my adult version this stranger wasn’t a vampire and his name wasn’t Edward) with a dimple in his cheeks.

But how does one, in an age when people attend more to the screens in their pockets than to one another, go about realising this fantasy of a lost and found love?

I went to places, as one does, not for any functional reason, but to be seen by others, to give this fantasy of a chance encounter a space to occur.

I walked, up and down Piccadilly and the little posh streets with beautiful porches and beautiful doors that concealed beautiful lives of the rich and famous.

I sat in cafes in Soho and watched the constant stream of people: tourists and families and groups of fashionably inebriated young men and women, sometimes couples that walked hand in hand, among everyone but seeing no one but each other.

Seeing their imagined happiness on display made my chest clench into a fist and filled my mind with determination to exist, be seen, look for the chance encounter.

I walked around the parks and rose gardens in Regent’s Park and the little streets in Marylebone. The paths along the Thames that led to and fro Tower Bridge, through Shadwell and Limehouse, beneath the splendour and shadow of Canary Wharf and all the way across the foottunnel to Greenwich and far beyond until the metallic sails of the Thames Barrier appeared.

As the years went by and this imagined encounter failed to materialise, I became bitter at the sight of people who had found some sort of partnership. In their casual intimacies, I saw a reflection of my own failure and slowly, day by day, the romantic notion of a big city, of being one among millions, dissipated into distant rumble of the city at dusk.