I’m plagued by thoughts on sleepiness. With some shame, I reluctantly admit I can be a sleepy boy. Pop open a bottle of cheap Cabernet Sauvignon, turn the heat on, sit me down on a comfy couch and I am most easily seduced by sweet, sexy slumber. I should be grateful for my ability to glide somewhat gracefully to rest. However, I have effortlessly fallen asleep in many bizarre and laughable, wonderful and compromising situations, abducted from waking consciousness.
The weather in London seems just cold enough to keep me awake. We’ve been very fortunate with the English winter weather we’ve had thus far. Today was a beautiful and balmy 52 degrees, far from the polar vortex frigidity of Boston. It’s as if the season, like many cultural curiosities I’m tickled to discover, is defined by different terms across the pond.
My day began with a walk through Hyde Park, located a remarkable ten minutes from the Sorbonne House dorms. Sans morning cup of coffee, I was immediately awoken, eyes wide open, by the breathtaking beauty of every little thing. There is a graceful solemnity about this old city. I realize winter in London feels more to me like perpetual fall, its primary colors greyblustery skies and green verdant earth accented by supportive shades of rich brick red and dignified mustard yellow. Populating the landscape are all sorts of well-composed Britons dressed in Barbour raincoats with corduroy collars, always prepared for the sun to, once again, retreat behind a thick of clouds and give way to a steady sheet of rain-showers.
At the onset of last summer, I was unemployed for quite some time. Every day, I’d wake up—perhaps hungover, definitely sad—and I’d begin to synthesize a day out of nothing. I had several friends working at Boston Harbor Cruises, and I would often plan to meet my best friend Ben when his shift giving tours was over. Boston Harbor lies opposite Boston University and the surrounding student-filled suburbs, so now I had a trek to exhaust some of my surplus time. I’d walk something like four miles from one side of Boston to the other—often in gross, sticky summer heat—cutting through the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden at the heart of town. I’d stop, sit, and people watch to a soundtrack of Vampire Weekend. Occasionally I’d halfheartedly scribble in my journal some ideas I had for plays I had convinced myself I was writing.
It was a most indulgent time in my little life, and it revealed to me a self-truth I hold very dear: I fall in love in parks, for the unbridled vitality of such a place. Exhilarated by the commingled nature of man, flora, and fauna, I am transfixed and transported into a silly state of being that well suits my “romantic” self-identification. I feel the pressure of time lighten its burden on me. I spoil myself on thought and venture down fantastical rabbit holes of reason that I rarely feel brave or inspired enough to even approach under other, less luxurious circumstances.
Perhaps this predilection is the most like Walt Whitman I will ever be.
James, one of my remarkable acting tutors at LAMDA, recently encouraged us to really take our time as we worked on our speeches. “We should not rush our speeches and we should not rush our lives. Be gentle. Take—your—time,” he persisted. This advice lodged itself in my consciousness and found great company in encouragement once given to me by my sorely missed BU professor Christine: “connect to your sense of plenty of time.”
As last semester in Boston came to an end, I found myself naturally battling assorted stresses and anxieties. During a regular weekday, I hadn’t the time between classes, deadlines, or rehearsals to channel my unemployed summer zen in the Boston Common, so I found a retreat in a beautiful bit of green in nearby Brookline called Amory Park. Romance would find me on the boardwalk over Hall’s Pond. The crisp air would catch me, the quiet would subdue me, and I would embrace the certain sense of relief that followed. I would connect to my sense of plenty of time.
I’m humbled to know I can trust the outside world to give me such a momentary experience of transcendence. James, the aforementioned LAMDA tutor, warns against ‘experience,’ saying it’s “for those who want to suffer.” Perhaps I do not yet know enough experience to agree or disagree, but regardless, I desire the kind of presence I find when I walk through a beautiful park.
Today, in Hyde Park, London felt like home for the first time. It felt like it was mine for the first time. I carry with me many preoccupations that often tense my shoulders and upset my stomach, but I find release and religion in a park’s flourishing of life.
Out on the other side of Hyde Park, I stand at a very confusing intersection to Marble Arch and the Oxford Circus shopping district. I trust I won’t get hit by a big red double decker bus or a black cab, and I see my reflection flash in their windows as they rush past. I pretend to be stately, self-possessed, and stiff-upper-lipped in my black, TJ Maxx-bought peacoat and plaid scarf. But I know, deep down, I’m just a sleepy boy trying to stay awake long enough to fall in love. And I’m so obviously American.