I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Oxford, England. There are five other people besides myself in this small second-floor café. Most are students, one might be a professor. Radiohead is playing from the ceiling, which is also plastered with old movie posters. The walls are pink and black.
A couple of girls are complaining about their roommates. Two others are reading books and one is constantly texting. Out the window is a small covered market not unlike the ones in Japan, yet completely different. If I close my eyes, I can see the trees and sky of Ko Samui, Thailand but when I open them again I feel the cold winter coming in the windows. My coat feels heavy on my shoulders and I cannot remember what the warm sun feels like. It’s been winter forever.
I walk from the covered market to High Street. It is bustling with cars, buses, bicycles, scooters, and the footfall of hurried students and consumers. Cathedral bells ring somewhere in the distance, a strange and new sound for me but a daily annoyance for others. People yap on cell phones and Bluetooth headsets, and occasionally to the air itself. Clocks tell the time everywhere but this does not console anyone; there is always too much to do.
I stand near a tall and ornate church spire and look. People walk by. People stop. Some take pictures. Others scowl at the standing people. Others seem amused. Those who take pictures look at the spire but some will never see it. Sometimes, a crowd appears with a guide; they hurry off quickly. Public Transportation runs to and fro, carrying tired faces before noon. If I put in my headphones, the world drops away and I’m left with a silent moving picture to accompany my personal soundtrack. This can be helpful.
Sometimes I long for the familiar bed and security I’ve not known for two years. Other times I long for the ever-present warmth of Asian shores. These are fleeting longings, however; being happy in the moment is important. I am always mindful to keep the peace within that I have pieced together in a dozen countries. To lose that would be to lose all that I’ve gained. If I return home and pick up where I left off, what has been the use aside from some anecdotal stories?
One week to go.