Paths More Travelled

Entry by: Alobear

20th September 2017
Why are there so many people in the way?

I’m trying to traverse Trafalgar Square on my route to an important meeting, and there are people everywhere. They’re all staring around, moving at glacial speeds, blocking the walkways.

Don’t they know there are London residents attempting to get through, who don’t care about the living statues, and don’t have to stop in the middle of the pavement to consult a map?

I should have known better than to try and cut through here in the middle of the afternoon. I never learn.

A man dawdles right across my path and, in my haste, I don’t see the wheeled suitcase trailing behind him. Then I’m falling and the hard paving stones make for a jarring impact on palms and knees.

A loud voice sounds right in my ear, the words stretched out by a broad Amercian accent.

“Oh my god! Are you okay?”

There’s a hand under my elbow, and a plump, older woman, complete with yellow leisure suit and bum-bag, helps me to my feet.

“It’s okay,” I say. “I’m okay. Really.”

“No, it’s not. That man didn’t even stop to see if you’re injured. And you’re trembling. Come over here a minute and sit down.”

She leads me to the low wall around the fountain and sits me down next to the water. I find myself unable to resist. Even seated, I don’t have to look up very far to meet her eyes. They are crinkled with concern within a florid, fleshy face that nevertheless conveys motherly affection.

“There now. You just catch your breath.” She takes one of my hands and inspects the palm. “Doesn’t look like you’ve broken the skin. But that was a nasty fall.”

“Really, I’m okay,” I say. “Thank you, but I have to go. I have a business meeting.”

Her eyes widen. “Wait. Do you live here? In London?”

I nod, and her features transform into a delighted grin.

“You’re so lucky!” She sweeps an arm around to encompass the whole square. “To think you get to walk through here every day. It’s all so marvellous!”

I follow the arc of her arm with my gaze. The water sparkles in the afternoon sunshine. The stately stone lions look down on the scene with grave pride. The faint scent of honeyed nuts wafts from a nearby cart. People mill about, relaxed and happy, enjoying their holiday in the city I call home.

My rescuer points off to one side. “And Buckingham Palace is just down there.”

I know that. I’ve walked The Mall many times, but I can’t remember the last time I actually registered the beauty of the tree-lined approach to the palace. The dappling of sunlight through the leaves, the shining golden statue in the centre of the roundabout, the intricate royal seals all along the railings.

I travel the streets of London every day. I don’t think familiarity has bred contempt, but it’s certainly resulted in inattention.

I smile back at the woman.

“I’m really okay now,” I say. “Thank you for your help.”

And this time I mean it.