To describe what it was like to be in England, and to finally meet a lifelong friend, I have to start at the start. I had never flown Virgin airlines before, and I heard a great many things about their services–so when I took my window seat and saw that I had free movies to choose from, a blanket, pillow, sleepmask, earplugs, and even a toothbrush and toothpaste, I thought “this is going to be an awesome flight.” I imagined myself taking off from New York around 8PM, immediately falling asleep, and waking up in London at 8AM. This was not the case. I did not sleep for a minute of my eight-hour flight. Still, I thought the flight was alright; I enjoyed complimentary cheap red wine, dinner, breakfast, and I listened to a lot of George R.R. Martin on audiobook.
When I landed in London, I was exhausted, but too excited to slow down. I made my way to the central bus station, grabbed a ticket to Southampton, waited all of thirty minutes, boarded my bus, and got underway. (I noted that the air outside of London Heathrow smelled clean, felt cold, like ionized air). I looked out of the bus window, looking for some iconic London landmark. Would I see Big Ben? The London Eye? I saw nothing. (I think this must be what it feels like to land in America for your first time, stepping outside at LaGuardia Airport, and feasting your eyes on Queens). But I wasn’t here for London, London was just a means to an ends, I was here for my friend.
Still, feeling antsy, I took notes to pass the hours. I noted every roundabout, the types of cars we passed, the traffic signs, (how accurate Euro Truck Simulator surprisingly is), the beautiful yellow rapeseed fields, the farm animals. Then the bus drove through our first city, Winchester. I noted the “canal-river” which turned out to be a Roman Viaduct, the many bars and restaurants, the historical brick aesthetic. (I don’t think I imagined I would be here four days later, eating and drinking with one of my best friends).
I feared falling asleep on the bus. It was far more comfortable than the airplane. I put on another chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire on Audible and tried to focus on the landscape. “Stay awake.”
When the bus pulled through Southampton, it was funny. I had seen some of these streets before, on Google Maps, back when I was thinking about the trip. I saw the West Quay, I knew what it was. I kept looking at the sidewalks. Was she somewhere around here? Where’s the bus station? Where? Where?!
Seeing her in the bus station was crazy. Just that type of moment where you don’t care how dorky you look to all these strangers, you’re just so happy you’ll let yourself get a little out there. Scream, hug, laugh, just say “Oh my God” over and over again. And, keep in mind, at this point I had been awake for over 24 hours, so the lunacy of sleep deprivation was stacking on top of the lunacy of happiness.
The notes slowed down here, because well, I was just experiencing things. I was wheeling my small luggage through a new town with an old friend. I needed desperately to sleep. So I slept in what would be my modest little bedroom for nine days. I slept a small, good little sleep, then had some breakfast sandwiches and drinks at the Maritimo Lounge, and more drinks back at my friend’s place. My long day ended like that. Familiar vibes of watching YouTube videos over some cider and beer, and a longer, much more needed sleep.