Places, Stories

London Love Affair

It’s sometime before midnight in London, and we’re walking along the streets of Soho. People have poured out of the pubs, restaurants, and theaters and onto the street. If you look hard, every so often you can see hints of pavement when the sea of people moves left or right. A car drives eversoslowly, parting a path. Its wake is swallowed up by women in short skirts and men wearing smart jackets with close-cropped hair.

Just above us, in the window atop Ed’s Easy Diner, there’s an impressionist singing to a room full of people. She’s wearing a feather boa; reflected dots of light from her sequined dress dance across the ceiling. Her large wig bobs as she extends a gloved hand toward the crowd. The refrain from “Mama Mia” tumbles down to the street.

The concierge at our hotel, Joey, had recommended an evening meal at 10 Greek Street before our stroll through Soho. Joey was charming and knowledgeable, and had excellent penmanship. I loved him immediately. Sitting in a lobby designed by Philippe Starck, which, the hotel boasts, “plays with colour, proportion, and movement in a way that energizes every guest and inspires active self-expression for the duration of the stay,” Joey and I talked about London—what we’d seen, what we hadn’t, what our life plans were. You know, light things like that. I asked the Belgian what had brought him to London. That’s when Joey offered up my favorite kind of story—a love story. I swooned, then shared that Dave and I were celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary with this trip.

Her large wig bobs as she extends a gloved hand toward the crowd. The refrain from “Mama Mia” tumbles down to the street.

In the first year of our marriage, Dave and I developed a sacred ritual. On Saturday mornings, we’d wake up very late, make a batch of waffles, turn on the small tube TV in our one-bedroom apartment, and watch BBC America. We were whisked away to a place where people spoke with smart-sounding accents, had beautiful gardens and a dry wit, and displayed a level of stoicism that felt familiar, or maybe ancestral.

First up, Are You Being Served? Then the cheeky banter between Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe was replaced by The Naked Chef (he goes by Jamie Oliver now). Finally, we capped off our long and lazy afternoon with Changing Rooms and Ground Force.

It was how we started our married life together. I look back on those days with such tenderness. Also, shock at the amazing amount of free time we had—even with our long work weeks and hour-long commutes. Our weekends were everything.

When our fifteenth anniversary rolled around, we wanted to do something that honored our beginning. Plus, Dave had visited London a number of times before. And even though he always brought me back tea and biscuits, I still held the missing stamp in my passport against him.

But now we’re in London. Together. So far on this trip we’ve seen Big Ben, the Crown Jewels, and Buckingham Palace, and enjoyed a meal of mushy peas and fish and chips. We’ve done all the touristy things, and I have blisters on my heels to prove it. Now we’re walking through a crowd of people in the West End on our last night. The streets are full and brimming with life.

We pass massage parlors, lingerie shops, and a woman with wild hair and a thick brogue who asked us for money. Life has a way of throwing interesting things our path. I make a mental note to work all these little bits into stories later on.

I reach over and grab Dave’s hand as we walk along, weaving in and out of the crowds. We’ve been a team for so long now. We’ve joined everything—our careers, our lives, and now this piece, our London experience. Fifteen years of married life together. It all goes so fast. I try to soak in as much of it as I can.

We make a left turn and walk back to our hotel.

This post originally appeared on South of Brooklyn.