As soon as I had found the key to Shaun’s, placed under a bench outside her flat, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt a wave of thankfulness sweep over me.
The non-stop travel from America and the loss of my night and sleep had started to wear on me and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and just be.
But it didn’t last long. No sooner had I begun to relax there was a bang on the door.
Ignore it, I thought. You don’t live here. Don’t open the door.
Then, another knock.
OK. Ask who it is.
I stubbornly got up and walked to the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Tim,” said a heavily accented Australian from behind the bright blue painted door.
Right. That meant nothing to me.
I figured if he said his name, he must have known the people living there, so I popped the door ajar and poked my tired head out.
“Oh right, hey there, you must be Shaun’s friend.”
I opened the door the rest of the way.
“I’ve just come to pick up my mail, I used to live here.”
I let him in, retreating back to my couch.
“So, where ya’ been?”
Thus, our conversation began, and the sleep I was so looking forward to quickly slipped through my fingers.
We chatted on for quite some time, sharing stories of traveling, his take on London (doesn’t like it) and where I could go to get food, since if I couldn’t sleep, damn it, I would eat.
“Well, I am going up to St. Paul’s and if you want to come up there I will keep you company and have a beer.”
Day drinking is a rare thing for me. But, there are times when it just fits. That afternoon in London, on my very first day of long-term travel, it fit. A new town. A stranger whom I immediately clicked with. It just made perfect sense.
Tim and I hopped on the DLR followed by the tube and talked London. Then, when we got off at St. Paul, we talked travel. And then, once we were situated at the bar, we just talked.
The immense exhaustion I was staring dead on disappeared for those few hours and the excitement and awe of where I was, coupled with the realization of what I was doing, fueled me beyond belief.
It was nice to be awake … drinking Peroni … hanging out at a nice pub (not the typical pub you think of when you think of British pubs, instead it was more sterile with a shiny white floor, sleek bar, suits seated at tables, hip servers wearing all black) … and having good conversation.
We hadn’t meant to stay as long as we did … but after a couple of hours it was time to go. Shaun was due home and there was no way I was going to be late to see her.
After his friend helped me “top up” my new UK cell phone, we parted ways. He and his friend off to go about town and me back on the train to Shaun’s.
This time, I knew where I was going.