I’ve only ever been graced with photos provided by books and Internet search engines, but when my eyes are exposed to the beauty that is London, I feel longing.
Research on Old London has engraved a vision of romance in my mind — the cobblestone roads glistening with drops of dew, the towering brick buildings sometimes crooked in structure, the dim street lights that are blurred visions of gold through sheets of thick rain pour, and the little shops lined along the sidewalks that are inviting, warm and abundant in treasures.
On the opposite end, when I examine London as it is now, I see adventure, twinkling city lights, the amber glow of Big Ben against the epitome of a brilliant night sky, the London Eye circulating and providing a perfect view at the top, and the bridge created through the finest architect’s vision — designed like two castles facing one another and only uniting for the purpose of transporting pedestrians from one end of this storybook land to the other.
Since as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to London, and now, at the age of 26, I have finally mustered up the funds and have a purpose, other than love, to visit this city. My visit is under the best circumstances that I can imagine as well — a book signing. And it’s for me. My name is Aidan Hendrix and I am the author of London Bridges, Falling in Love — a story about an American man and a woman from London who fall in love after meeting on the London Bridge. It’s all fantastic and short-lived and ends in complete tragedy, but it has brought me to the city that I’ve fantasized about for many years.
My publicist arranged for my arrival to be three days before the signing. He understands my love for this city and has allowed me to get to know her. My first steps out of the airport bring one thought to mind, I can touch you now. And I do. I brush my fingers on the “rubbish” bins stained with sticky coffee splatters and smirk. My publicist, Rick, rents a car for each of us and my London adventure begins.
My three days of freedom to be with the city I love are much like the romantic encounters between the main characters of London Bridges, Falling in Love, Jane Baker and Desmond Shore. I spend the days eating Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, visiting Big Ben, riding the iconic red double-decker buses and the London Eye, shopping in bookstores and antique shops, watching a playwright at the Royal Court Theater, and stumbling from pub to pub slinging back ale and courting women who all seem to resemble Jane.
The book signing is a blur; in fact I’m not even sure I’ve signed my name. Every now and then I’d look down and realize I’d signed Desmond Shore. Why is this happening? When the book signing is over I ask my publicist to take me to the London Bridge. I walk half a mile in when I stop and take in the city view. My senses are alive — my ears listen to he wonderful sound of the British tongue, my tongue salivates at the bittersweet taste of London air, the smells of wrecking traffic fumes fill my nostrils, and my fingers tingle as I hold onto the rail, and then, my eyes flood with tears. As Big Ben strikes twelve, I realize my affair with London is over. In an hour I will be on a plane back to America and she will be but a fond memory. I know now that during my time here I was not Aidan Hendrix. I was Desmond Shore, and London was my Jane.
Nadia Reddy resides in the California Bay Area with her husband and cat. When she is not writing she enjoys visiting theme parks, watching films and drawing.