7 am on a Sunday morning. Brass double doors with gold trimmings open and I spill out unto the wet pavement. First, my little black bag with wheels, then I follow. The doorman in his freshly pressed red uniform with gold trimmings matching the doors gives me a quick courteous nod and pulls the double doors shut.
The late February air is pungent with freshly felled rain. Immediately, two fat pigeons startle me as they flap unto my path, blocking me.
“Who goes there?” they seem to ask, necks jerking left and right and craning up to look at me, their rotund bodies remaining stationary. I walk around them. Remaining unfazed, they bend low to sip from a puddle etched into the concrete pavement.
I walk on.
Opposite me, a two storey red bus pulls up to a bus stop to pour out a passenger. Light emanating outwards from within makes the red bus a glowing cast against the dark morning.
I press on; past headless mannequins donning spring collections in shop windows. I pause to study them. Draped around otherworldly proportioned bodies are tailored suits made from expensive linen, silk dresses, soft cashmere sweaters, the finest pearls around long lean necks.
An ultra trim jogger with an otherworldly proportioned body whizzes past me just as I turn to continue my walk. The lone jogger leaves me farther behind by the second. Other souls zip by in black cabs and the occasional lipstick red double decker bus.
Or so I thought as I startle two more souls tucked within an indentation bordered by grey walls. They puff smoke lethargically, warming up, sitting on the wet concrete. Both men say nothing to each other. I make eye contact with one of them who languidly stares back. Not maliciously. Just with a resignation that read, “I would normally say hello, but please forgive me madam, I need a break.”
I move on, the wheels of my bag splashing in puddles like a little kid. A red bus pulls up not ten feet from me, and my heart beats faster in anticipation of more souls joining me on my walk.
A woman steps out, drenched in a thick brown coat wrapped warmly over her ethnic African wear. The same look of resignation I’d seen on the cigarette-dragging men was plastered across her face. She glides past me as quickly as the warm glowing bus races off.
I reach the underground station but it is closed. Finding myself on the wet street once more, I scan for a warm black cab or a glowing red bus. Within seconds, a taxi traveling the opposite direction makes a sharp U-turn.
I hadn’t waved him down but hurtle towards him anyways.
“Paddington?” I ask.
“Of course,” he replies.
I hop in gracelessly, pushing my bag with the wheels in first, and diving in right after it. We sit in silence as he meanders, heading towards more light, more life.
London, it seemed, was somewhere else.
This post has been entered into the Grantourismo-HomeAway travel writing competition.