Buses and taxis whizz by in blurs – a scene which could have jumped right out of a comic book page. Everything looks just how you would expect: the financial blocks tower above you, looking as if at any moment they will topple over like Jenga. The click-clacking of red-soled shoes upon the pavement can be heard, as people are rushing beside you, eager to reach their destination. The sweeping skyline features a whole host of shades from orange to pink, as it lights up a city too busy to look up at it- unless it is through a blinking screen and an Instagram filter, of course.
Ah, London. There’s no place like London…
The meandering streets switch from classic to contemporary in an instant, as you walk along a road resembling a patchwork due to fissures in the concrete, wondering which decade you might step into next. Will it be the Renaissance along the Southbank? Complete with nightly revels of entertainment, fringed with a gold thatched roof? Or will it be the present? A transparent glass window of a Chelsea shopping centre, full of briefcase-d boys and lunching ladies with ruby lips sipping on glasses of claret, signing contracts with blood-thirsty looks in their eyes? Each step takes you either towards the future, or transports you stumbling back into the past. Dizzy with confusion, you wonder how the dots on the map all add up to make this city, just as the tube carriage you meant to jump on rushes past you. The wind smacks into your rosy cheeks as you jump back, startled yet again by the pace of everything.
It all feels so perfect and full of opportunity – in theory: There’s so much to do in London, you will never be bored, there are plenty of places to go. For sure you will never see the same person or thing twice, and your eyes will remain full of wonder, as your heart pumps with love for this beautiful city bursting with life.
And then you see red.
There is jostling, shoving, pushing and knocking as you are seduced into the tidal wave of rushing commuters and business men and women- rushing not out of excitement, but out of fear. What kind you ask? It is the fear that they will not get somewhere on time, will be late for work, or of a black mark on their attendance. Your face is pushed into burgundy hair as you are shoved onto a rattling metal cart, with everyone pressed against windows and each other, like sardines in a tin. Alarm bells ring in your head as you realise that no matter how fast you move, you will always be caught up. There simply is not enough time to get everywhere, see everything, do everything. Inevitably, something will always be missed.
The red sea buoys up and out into the open; you think you have escaped. But the industrial air catches in your throat and you still can’t breathe. You are trapped in the city, with never a moment to spare.