Today as Chup and I boarded a train in Manchester due London, I was pumping anticipation in my veins. I was going to show my husband (a London virgin--if you will) the best of a city which has long since captured my heart. A two hour train ride, through the green, wavy hillsides--where I saw the ghosts of Austen's characters run broken hearted through the heather--passed until we arrived at Eusten station.
I was sixteen when I first met London, and a few years later I came back as a student for several months. In my younger years London was able to manipulate my energy so that I became entranced. I walked through streets and squares wide-eyed and vulnerable. For me, London represented all of the world's possibilities and infused me with thoughts of a mysterious future.
Years later, after I had married I came to London several more times as a tour guide for nieces and nephews. Though the city still washed over me with wonder, my passion became fixed on monuments, memorials and churches which only further fed my strange statue fascination. A fascination that surrounds the question: How do statues look like a human but have no soul? How do they not feel the rain on their head or the pigeons picking about them? How do they seem in thought, and yet have no thoughts?
(Also this: there is a notion of jealousy. These perfectly chiseled bodies, subject to no aging, with abs of rapture and chests of virtue. And any statue worth gazing is always embodied with emotion. To spend eternity in the throes of passionate action or reaction? Who wouldn't want to be a Rodin sculpture?)
But most of all, alone in London meant that I was missing someone. And that longing to be with my Someone made London fantastically romantic. Every kissing couple in Hyde Park, every intimate dinner conversationalists, every man on the tube with flowers reminded me of my Someone. And so, up until today London was Love.
The kind that pines and swoons and catches up with you at Marble Arch when you are trying to read plaques about interesting pieces of royal history. The sentiments statues (again, the statues) spend ages and ages displaying. The city enhanced emotions so that emails read more potent. I love you meant, I really want nothing more than to sit close with you and watch the paddle boats on the Serpentine.
So there was a moment today, when I marched Chup across Hyde Park to pay tribute to my favorite bench in all of England. A bench where I had spent hours as a student writing pages and pages of personal scripture. A holy spot in all of the town which represented a birth of cultural sorts for me. And when we found my bench it was devastating to see that it no longer carried the same importance it once had.
Because, suddenly I had what I wanted. Sitting on my hallowed ground next to me was the answer to my unresolved romantic yearning. And in Dorthy fashion, I found that home was him.
"You are London. You are Paris. San Fransisco." I said to Chup.
And without much explanation Chup understood.
He was the monuments, the memorials, the interesting churches with grimy facades. He was gold gilded statues taking shelter underneath Byzantine canopies. He was infinitely tastier than the Waffle House on Queensway or the Love Bar at Pret A Manger. More handsome than Wellington's Achilles, more intriguing than Kensington Palace, more whimsical than Peter Pan.
I resolved this, and said good bye to my dear bench.
We continued our parade across the park to stare at the Albert Memorial, a tribute from his devoted wife Queen Victoria. In all, the structure is massive with exotic statues and choirs of England's elite singing praises to the prince. I've loved it since the moment I first saw it protruding out of the trees in Hyde Park.
As we approached the structure I recounted the monument's back story. We took time to look at each corner piece, representing the four corners of colonization of England. Each grouping includes a woman surrounded by courtiers of ethnicity each time riding a spectacular animal (for Asia, an elephant, the Americas, a buffalo).
And once again, I was found envious of a slab of clay with perfect breasts and wavy hair. I wondered how the woman didn't have intelligence enough to know that she was being worshiped by an entourage of African men while riding a camel. How could she not know? She has eyes, how can she not see?
But my heart was beating--especially sincerely after my recent personal discovery--and hers wasn't. I would have more than an earthly immortality, more than courtiers that never touched my hands or face. In this, I beat the statue. Next to my husband as we gazed on, I declared that I would build him a monument twice as brilliant.
"But you wouldn't have to." Chup replied staring up to the top of the memorial where the gold cross steeple meets the heavens.
So instead I kissed him as surely as I could.
And this is my memorial.
***photo of the Albert Memorial found here.