In my tangible world, I sit at a desk of green Corian and type nonsense into a glaring screen, as if I truly care. I smile while I file, giving an Oscar-winning performance that I'm enjoying this stale coffee, this canned jazz music, this dull low back pain from an ergonomically questionable chair. This is my reality. If only they knew my secret. If only they realized the world I inhabit in my mind's eye....
My foot makes a clipping sound as it hits the grey stone on the stoop as I step out into the morning. The air is fresh and crisp, but surprisingly not cold. I look up; above the ornately decorated rooflines, the bright blue sky is freckled with wispy clouds moving swiftly in the steady sharp breeze. All around me, the sun is rising; the city is waking up.
My ears are filled with a symphony of sounds: glass jars filled with fresh milk clanking in their metal carts as milkmen scurry to leave them at every doorstep, the cranky diesel engines of the buses grinding into higher gears as drivers ease them around the street corner, the clip-clop of shoes hitting the cobblestone with every step sounds almost like rain on the sidewalk.
I ease into the flow of smartly dressed people carrying steaming cups and folded newspapers nestled warmly under their arms. We all seem to have the same destination, and I feel privileged to join this daily migration.
We turn at the street corner, carefully dodging the passing clusters of people headed in the opposite direction. There is an unspoken urgency in the air, so we step quickly on this bright morning. Our steps are careful, knowing the old age of this walkway is the reason it is uneven. No, don't repair it; don't fill it with concrete. There's a pride in the irreplaceable history crushed into the surface of these stones, the reasons for these potholes. The remarkable age of this place seasons the air like warm, inviting sunlight. Please, it seems to say, come immerse yourself in our story.
We turn another corner, lined with a formidable black iron railing. Emblems of lions sit pretentiously on the top of each post, reminding all who see that this was once the most powerful city in the world. The street is flanked by huge, aged, leafy trees covering the street like a tent. The breeze causes an unbroken song of rustling in the leaves. Up ahead, there's a break in the railing, set apart by a large black gate. This is my off-ramp. I carefully pull out of the river of people and step through the intimidating gate.
Immediately, the world is different. The excitement has faded away to reveal a calm so overwhelming, I resist disturbing it. Carefully manicured pathways sneak discreetly around knolls of green grass. Huge oak trees enclose this place, protecting the tranquility. A blanket of mist hovers peacefully above the dewy ground on this brisk morning. Every step I take disturbs its sleep, as the fog swirls around me. The sound of lapping water draws my attention to a great pond. Ducks paddle carefully around a large stone fountain as tiny birds drink from the trickle of water bouncing down.
I'm not the only person here. A few of the sharply dressed locals have slipped through the gate, as well. Ornate benches provide resting places for their steaming cups of coffee and tea as they eagerly devour their newspapers until the gentle, unobtrusive chimes of Big Ben remind them that the day is waiting. This is their morning routine; this is their commute.
There's an ache in my heart when the grassy hills snap quickly back to my green Corian desk as my boss approaches with yet another list to be pounded into my computer. London is not my reality, but it is real. Until the next time I step out onto those stones, it will be my Unreality...and I will enjoy every minute of it.