The Wheel on Top of the World, London
It had been a rotten day, with all of the small thing going wrong. The bus did not notice them, and drove on. In a department store – Harrod's – the elevator was down, and the second one needed repair on the floor which they wanted to shop at. They got in a cab, and directed it down the exact reverse way that it should have gone. And there were two or three other things which meant that they were three hours late. But all of this was undone by catching the wheel, the wheel on top of the world. One could see a topographic study of London, with buildings jumbled together, and then more orderly when it had been rebuilt in the late 19th century and early 20th century. But what is interesting is there were times when you could not see the wheel from the inside – at the top for a brief few seconds it was as if you were floating. One could not feel that anything was the matter once the doors were closed. It was mystical.
He looked at her, and wondered when she would leave him. Looking back on the day, there were several things – if he had been a female – that would have made him leave. But she had refused to budge on any of these moments, though he thought he saw the look of exasperation which creeped in around her eyes. He wondered why men and women – statistically – were the way they are, because though he might have left, he wonder why she did not leave, though there were numerous possibilities. But none of then work on her. Which is odd, then he realized most of the women would stand by their man, even to the point of admitting that there were men in their lives who would be better for them - better for them in almost every respect. Then he noticed that her eyes were fixed upon him – which meant that he would have to play at being interested in what she was about to say. That was his gift: knowing when the woman he was attached to was going to speak; and he would listen, seemingly intently. Thus he formed his face and his entire body to a pose of receptiveness, and a look about his eyes which said he was just listening to the patter of her voice. It had a rhythm to it which the girls – and I do mean girls – would melt in their way. The woman would know that this had to be wrong, but she could not get this through to the little part of her that was completely smitten.
“Tell me, would you rather have this moment first or last in the day?”
“Could you be more specific?”
“I thought I was. Everything about this moment, both the physical details and that, how do you say it? Je ne sais quoi. And is that French or English converted from French?” She had a hurt expression on her lips, which spread out from there to consume her entire face.
“I think of it as English converted from French, but I seem to be in the minority of one.”
But she was not going to buy that he was not going to answer the main question. He knew that she was not going to do so, either, but he had to make the effort – as hopeless as it was.
“So what do you say?”
He thus dropped back to his second line of defense: responding with not an answer. But he knew this one was not going to work either, but it played for time, and time was on his side. If he could just keep going, there would be the opening of the doors – and they would be out with all the world to hear them. At which point, it would be impolite to answer the real question which was behind this.
“There are many things to be said for both options.”
But there came a stop to her voice, and their was a simulated rumbling to her expression. He did not know what this meant, but he realized that it was nothing good. So, without meaning to, the girded himself for the punishment – the punishment which was “Her”, with a capital “H”, being ready to inflict the enormous damage that a woman could do when she gathers herself together and launches into a tirade.
“I do not understand how you can do this to me. I have braved a journey to a continent that I was unfamiliar with, only to be abused. And, what is more, totally rejected. Do you have anything reasonable to say, at this point? Or is your tactic to never answer the real question.” By which she meant the setup question, not the real - in her heart – question.
It was suddenly like playing blitz chess, with only five minutes to make all of the moves. An average player plays one move ahead – if that. But every so often, a player which you would think had no grasp of the game manages to startle you. This is what women are like when the subject turns to marriage – or something like it. They go from a kitty to a tiger all at once – from pawn to queen, if you like. To playing tricks with the Queen, to finding the weakness which surrounds the King.
She continued: “Do you have any response? Or showed I just go to Heathrow and beg my way on to the next flight back to my home country?” But – and it was a but - then she sputtered, and he knew that now was instant to strike.
“It is not that I do not want you, or that I and you are trying to figure things out. But there is a hesitation, that gnaws in my stomach – that wishes we could go back and meet again, this time avoiding all of the rubs that made our meeting disruffle. I am sorry if I did not do better at this and many points, that you expected me to be more suave.” He then touched her left elbow, though very slightly. As if she was meant to wonder whether the caress was intentional, or not. He made no motion with his face, which confused her, and was meant to. With a soft shaking, she could not help her self – though only he could see it – she was shaking like a leaf in the breeze on a lightly raining night. It was a gentle reaching for closure, to have some sign that he felt something other then his words. At this point he scooped her left arm and turned ever so precisely, and with that she felt something was there. From a distance as they tromped there way through the crowd, and intimate observer would have thought his actions were trite and overly manufactured. But close in their was a hint that they might true – and even if it was not, she allowed herself to be swept away in the middle of the crowded assortment of families and associates. Anything else would not due.
But he realized he would have to make a decision as to whether she would be with him, permanently. And he had no clue as to how to make that decision. He remembered the line from 2001:A Space Odyssey: “But he would think of something.”
After that moment things turn to more touristy things, such as where they were going to eat. With the light fading, they walked across the bridge and back again, with Big Ben peering down from above with a rather nasty expression - in its tall, secluded, kind of way. Towering over the buildings on the parliament, like a Lord over its servants. In the foreground, cars and buses toiled down the Avenue, as if to feed the labourers that produced nothing but words. In his mind, he hoped that was not for him – about this was doubtful. All the sugar in the Caribbean, every last teaspoon - which a good Anti-Sacchite would desire, but not the taste of - said otherwise.
As they moved over the bridge, less and less the scene was not Big Ben – and more and more about the parliament building. It was time for her to go in to what was once the most powerful legislature in world. In the inner chamber people looked at how few members of Parliament were actually participating in affairs. Where most of the time people spoke to constituents who were not there – with a light scattering of people - who, mostly, where dozing and nodding. She watched for a while, and then turned her head, and asked: “If no one reads what they have put on index cards, or memorized after having perfected it before hand, how does anything get done?”
With the light brown accoutrements, addressing the green seats, there was a certain gleaming from white lights over head. It was meant to look the way it did before, with a solemn majesty that argued for the grace of what might be called God. Along the top, there were windows which were white and gold within a framework that was ivory, suggesting the place of heaven – from which all members gained some inspiration. Of course, there was no believe in nature or God in most of the participants – though a few willfully held on to such beliefs. She listened to what someone was saying – but even in this wartime economy, there was precious little of value. “I would have thought it would be of more interest than this.”
“The quote about cricket also applies to Parliament in action – or is that too words rather than three? It says that there are brilliant moments between long gasps of in hour of nonsense. Or some such.”
“I never heard this.”
“It is a warning that Parliament debates are better read than listen to, accept for a sadly short list of truly greats. But there are some great moments, even among the dross.”
“In Canada the Prime Minister – Chretien – is one of the finer one ones, despite his pronunciation problems. But he is going to retire free soon, and his second in command is too much dawdling to hold on to the seat.”
“So why do people put up with this? Why not rally around a dictator?”
He was about to ask something obnoxious, but then turned his head towards hers and saw that she was being facetious- though her voice did not sound so. In fact she was amazed how societies worked even though individually they were filled with nonsense at virtually every level. But it was different nonsense, and in the back room everything was worked out. It was at this moment where he loved in a very specific way. The Greeks would call it philos – coming from the word which formed the basis of 'Philadelphia', which we poorly translate as 'brotherly love'. But it might have been translated as love without the intention of having sex, which the Greeks had a different word for – eros. The erotic love which burns and breaks within, that femoral artery from the heart that royals within. This they felt for one another in an instant.
Once they had departed from the parliament in Westminster, the sunlight was low to the ground, and dipped behind the Western shores as you turning out the light, though for a while yet there was daylight but no sunlight. But want was important was each one of them saw not the others face, but what appeared when they looked to the others eyes. That was a face which was different from the actual, more sublime and ethereal. It was the face which commanded respect, as Helen's face did when it launched 1000 ships for Ilios. Away, away, cross the ocean below the carried a secret that was still to know.
They were drifting on top clouds, not examining what they really felt for each other. But taking for granted that the feeling they had – however indescribable was – would be the way they felt for all eternity. They drifted into a moderately priced English establishment, which he warned her to stay away from the inordinately priced French cuisine, and stick to the more prosaic. She honored his request and both of them had an exquisitely fine meal at not expensive price. Which when you are young that his the best way of going.
They talked about the worries that were part of the transition between a single cog – and the joy of taking other pieces – not people, pieces - and making them work together, the idea that people depended on you was new to both of them. It was strange having someone look up to you. Very strange indeed. In busy places, they were planning the next disruption, which would make them rich, or so they told the small people.