Thursday, February 19, 2009

Redemption at Piccadilly

What he had tried to say was that he was sorry. His stumbling, inconsistent words hung like unanswered questions in the stale air in the tunnels below Piccadilly Circus. His apology was all disappointment, hollow words apparently devoid of true contrition.

She walked the underground hallways, crying, wondering why she had ever thought that a trip to London would be a good idea. Sure, their memorable trip here during the first months of their marriage had been a watershed moment in their long relationship---fulfilling, romantic and simply effortless in its ease. Now, twenty-seven years later, their patterns of speech and behavior solidified, calcified by habit and ennui, their relationship flew a habitual orbit that a trip to London could not simply derail with the novelty of a Ploughman’s Lunch, a pint of bitter, and nostalgic walks in Soho and Hyde Park.

He followed her up the impossibly long escalators below Piccadilly, giving her enough space to fume but not enough so that he would lose her in the rush hour crowds. They emerged onto the street, and he wondered what he would say when he finally gathered enough courage to start a new conversation. “I’m sorry” seemed trite, and “Please forgive me” might come across as melodramatic. Perhaps “Can we start over?” would work, an honest offer of a second chance, another go of being together and enjoying one another’s company in this crowded and eventful city.

He was awash with feelings he couldn’t quite name, and his body felt like it was filled with pebbles that rattled inside him with every step. He felt a pressure in his head as he walked, and emerging from his reverie, realized that he had indeed lost her in the crowd.

He waited at the light, crossed the street, cursing quietly, and turned around several times, squinting his eyes and willing her to reappear. Giving up, he crossed back the way he had come and decided to simply walk in the direction of the hotel. Then, out of the crowd of harried people rushing home from work on this unseasonably warm London day, she emerged, smiling slightly, eyes wet with tears, her hands simply at her sides.