London Calling

From tumblr-

Write a piece about the most comfortable item of clothing in the world.

When I was sixteen, I traveled with my Senior Class to London for ten days. It was the most amazing trip I have ever taken in my life. Aside from the thrilling sensation of being in a place so far from my internal home coordinates, the metropolitan nature of such a big city – to a suburban girl – provided a level of freedom I had never experienced.

When we woke up each morning, my friend Becca and I would skip the nasty, free breakfast provided by the hostel to head off on foot to the nearest McDonalds. No need to wait for a ride, we could just walk a few blocks and it was there. At every opportunity, we set out on foot to explore the city – armed only with our maps, scarves, and a camera.

We found Soho and Baker’s Street, Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square (under construction), Paddington Station and Charing Cross (which smells like a library right from the street). We found Covent Gardens, Portobello Road, and spent one hour lost, looking for #17 Cherry Tree Lane.

Every day was a micro adventure, and I’m grinning like a love-struck fool in every photograph. Truly, I had fallen in love with the place and I never wanted to leave.

The amount of pocket money we would need had been grossly underestimated by the school planner. I ran out of money fast, partly because I was too picky to eat the free daily breakfast of sunny-side up eggs, tomatoey beans, tomatoes, and that weird piece of meat they call bacon, but back then a McDonalds breakfast was around three pounds. Some mornings I’d just have a Snickers.

I’d been given so little money though, I had to abandon all hope of a souvenir. Most of the kids wanted a Hard Rock t-shirt from London, but Becca and I didn’t want to waste time in line and the food was outrageously expensive. We wandered away from there a bit disappointed and started poking around in some other shops with subtler signs.

We found a tiny little place that sold red plaid suspenders (braces not sexy underwear) and a variety of elements for punk anti-fashion. I was merely looking through the racks to pass time while Becca shopped, and tried on silly things that didn’t suit her beaming innocence.

When it comes to clothes I tend to shop with my fingertips first, then my eyes. On this occasion, as I stroked a rack of t-shirts, an unusual softness alert went off in my brain. In response, I extracted a t-shirt from the group that was feathery light, unburdened by iron-on decals, and unblemished by airbrushed icons of the day. It was a plain black t-shirt, in my size, and marked down to five pounds. I verified three times that the five bucks included the tax (mostly because I didn’t know what the shop kid meant when he said VAT was always included).

I wore that shirt at every opportunity for years. I washed it on delicate and hung it up to dry to keep it from shrinking, stiffening, or wearing out too soon. It wasn’t just the softest, most versatile piece of clothing in my wardrobe; it was a tangible memory of a love I would never stop trying to return to.

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2 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. That picture is adorable! And I love that you’re practicing memoir here. My favorite line is, “…and I’m grinning like a love-struck fool in every photograph”. That sums up your feelings of that trip, in my opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

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