The night descends first slowly and then all of a sudden on the small London park. It’s not even really a park, but more of a slice of green, trees and benches in the middle of the crowded City. But it is peaceful. You can look up and among the annoying streetlights count a handful of stars in the never-pitch-black sky. I sit down on the bench and the sudden feel of the cold wood on my skin makes me shudder. I put my hands in my pockets and bury my head in my scarf while a cloud of condensation forms outside my mouth like crystallised air. It’s oddly silent for being a random London night. Sometimes the muffled sound of cars rushing by to bring their owners home breaks through the air, but between my hat and the hood I can barely hear it.
I am not entirely sure why I made it all the way to that bit of green. I am not even sure I am dressed warm enough to be outside there. I look around me and the only living thing in the ray of a-hundred meters is a dog, quietly peeing on a tree and looking at me, tilting his head with curiosity. I smile subconsciously and look up at the polluted sky. I am so used to not being able to properly see the stars, but still in the middle of my chest there is the echo of a pain that springs from the core of it and expands to all my limbs. Just under the spot I am looking at a window lights up at the top of a victorian building. The light is tungsten looking and it allows me to see what’s happening from my corner of darkness. Two kids are running around in the room while their parents try playfully to catch them. It looks nice. They disappear from my sight inside the room and then come back, laughing and happy. It’s the kind of feeling that warms you up in a Winter night. I can’t help but imagining how it would be for me to be there with them and having as much fun as they have. Why am I even thinking that?
The younger kid gets into the arms of what I want to think is his dad and he lifts him up to look outside of the window where - I slowly come to realise - it has started to snow. They look at the snowflakes cascading from the sky, dancing and twirling in the cold British wind. The kid screams in delight and his dad quickly gestures him not to do that, as it’s late and their neighbours might be asleep. The other kid comes to the window too, just about tall enough to be able to see out of the window. His head pokes out of the bottom of the glass and he seems to be silenced by a deep feeling of wonder, as if the snow is the most beautiful things he has ever seen. Sometimes I miss feeling the spark of wonder and marvel that comes from new things. Easy things. Random events that just happen in your everyday life but that for some reason feel wonderful.
The kid asks a question to his father and for a split second I wonder why I haven’t actually seen their mother yet. Maybe she’s at work as he took a late shift, or maybe she’s sleeping and that’s the reason why the father was miming the kid not to scream. Or maybe, just maybe and the thought quickly crosses my mind, she’s dead or they divorced and the kids stayed with their dad.
I look down at my hands. Even though they were in my pockets they are still incredibly red and dry from the cold. The snow is starting to cover the ground, but I know it will be gone in the morning if not before. Snow doesn’t really stick in London, which is just as sad as stars not being able to be seen from down here. Sometimes I feel prisoner of somewhere where people come because they want to feel free instead. Why do I feel like that? I feel like I lost the spark along the way and I am still trying to find it like a blind man who tries to see again.
I look up again and I realise the two kids and the dad are actually looking at me now, maybe they noticed the lonely guy under their window randomly sitting in the snow. I wonder what they might think of me. I decide it’s time to get up and go for a walk. At least I can try and look a bit less like a freak.
London late at night never feels like it’s late at night, because people are awake, doing things and going somewhere pretty much at any time. Not as much as in day time, but you almost never get time for yourself while walking around.
I can’t seem to find a way to warm my hands up so I give up. The snow is still slowly twirling around me, falling from the sky like a weird slowed down white rain. It feels weird, it’s like time slowed down. Snow doesn’t fall in London, so it must just be rain playing at a slowed down speed. The internal part of my scarf is wet with condensation which is sticking to my stubble. I look around and I realise I am not too far off from the walk along the river. Nobody is around that particular part of the path, so I - not very athletically - climb the fences that prevents you to walk on the shore when it’s cold and wet. The stairs are slippery and feel frozen and dangerous. I am not wearing the best of shoes, but for someone who’s grown up in the countryside I should be able to climb down without injuring myself. Somehow, I think maybe I got comfortable with all this commodities, living this lifestyle that made me softer and less driven. Yes, maybe I can blame my environment for my own doubts and questions. I don’t know. I sit down at the bottom of the stairs and look at the water being barely shaken by the snowflakes falling. I don’t even care anymore if my bum gets wet. The creases in the water reflect the white and red lights from the tall buildings which are not even that close to the Thames. Everything looks so slow, then why do I feel so late to the rush? Maybe my perception of time is off, or maybe I am just so scared that everything just feels hyper-speed. I look at my wrist almost expecting to see a watch there.
What’s wrong with me? That I need to go out in the cold and freeze my face to death to get a clear picture of what’s happening. I take my phone out of the pocket and there is just a message from Mary. She wants to know if everything’s okay as I haven’t replied for the whole day and normally that means my head is too loud for me to do anything else. I should probably get back to her, I don’t know why I haven’t done it. I just want to be by myself with my head for a bit. I think back to those kids at the window and wonder what I dreamed of when I was that young. What did I want to do? Who did I want to be? What did I see my life being once I would be my age? I remember limitless dreams, not being a knight or an astronaut, but mainly reaching the stars and doing something that made me happy and feel like I was successful. I wanted to change people’s life somehow, but I got bored along the way. Or maybe the constant thought that maybe it wasn’t really possible to do that and that I wasn’t good enough by myself got repeated so many times inside my brain that I started really believing in it. It felt - and feels - so true sometimes that just the thought of trying becomes unbearable. I think I spent so much time thinking about who I wanted to be that I lost who I actually was.
A siren goes out in the night and my heart skips a bit, I am so lost in my own thoughts I lost track of my surroundings. I have to say that the wet inside my scarf is really starting to itch. I poke my mouth out so that I can breathe out of it and a storm of snowflakes settles down on my damp skin while clouds surrounds my face. It all looks so peaceful when I don’t have to think about tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and I will be one of those kids at the window. Maybe I’ll be ten or eight again and my dad will run after me in the kitchen, playfully pretending I’m too fast for him. Maybe I will scream and screech and fight against his strong arms and he will lift me off the ground. I’ll be in the air, relying only on his strength because I know he won’t let me fall. Maybe my brother will then complain because he’ll want to fly too. Flying has always fascinated me, how can you be in the middle of the empty air and not fall? The air must be really strong to be able to keep you suspended, I used to think as a kid. I remember I used to always choose flying when I had to pick a superpower. I always pictured myself as a bird, defeating gravity and making a fool of the law of physics. Well, not exactly, but that was definitely what I thought as a kid.
I wish my brain had stayed the same. I feel like realising how pointless things are until you don’t give them a meaning yourself was a defeating discovery for me. I wish I could have stayed in that status of complete ignorance and simple bliss that made me think I could be anything I wanted. In my head I keep spinning in the arms of my dad and screaming in joy and excitement, light as a bird and free. I sink into that deep feeling and I try to rewind my mind back to then. Rewinding that happiness and absorbing the lost youth. For a split second I am not in London anymore and all I can smell is my dad’s cologne. I remember how big his arms felt and how I dreamt to be like him one day. I take a deep breath and soak my brain into that memory in a way I just made up, looking for that lost kid I might quite possibly never find.
The snow is still falling. I could fall asleep there.