Or: It’s a Wonderful Parklife
I climbed into the backseat of the car with a lump in my throat, my eyes full of tears, my heart pulling itself from my chest cavity and reaching itself out the window to scale its way up the side of a three-story house and climb into the second floor window to be closer to my newfound love.
There he stood, his shining face smiling down at me, waving bon voyage.
“You Michael?” my driver inquired.
The car pulled away, and I choked back tears. My elastic heart snapped back into my chest.
“OW!!! FUCK!!!!” I returned.
I reeled from the impact. The shock left me dazed, seeing stars just long enough for the driver to speed down the street without me pulling a duck-and-roll to leap the moving vehicle. When I came to, I was covered in a cool sweat, my mind racing faster than the car pushing the speed limit down the highway towards the airport.
“This is ridiculous! What am I doing here?! I’m in the wrong story!!!”
I thumbed at a button on the side of my phone to turn down the volume on “Moments in the Woods,” as sung by the inimitable Joanna Gleason from the 1987 Original Broadway Cast Recording of Stephen Sondheim’s seminal Into the Woods. Now I could hear my thoughts a little better.
“What was I thinking? I wish I could stay. I should have stayed!! Why can’t I stay??”
My suitcase rumbled around in the trunk as we barreled past terminals before arriving at the international flight drop-off.
I thanked my Uber driver and collected my things. I took a deep breath and opened the Virgin Atlantic app I had downloaded to my phone to check my flight status — on time.
I continued into the terminal, my heart heavy, sodden with swallowed tears. I dragged my feet to a kiosk and took out my frustration on the computer. I stabbed at the screen with my middle finger incessantly until it had enough of my displaced abuse and spat out my boarding pass in retaliation.
I picked it up and examined it like some alien artifact dropped into my hands from a future yet unknown to me — its black and white type indecipherable hieroglyphs to my weary, teary eyes. I exasperated over it until I could make out two things: “Ciszewski, Michael John,” in the upper left-hand corner and beneath it, in ominous block letters, “BOS → LHR.”
Several months prior, I was spending a morning working out in my college gym, pumping iron to fulfill my life-long dream of being a foxy blonde heartthrob worthy of casting for a few b-plots on a CW teen soap as a young gay high school werewolf who comes out after finding love after tying for first in a martian swim-meet.
I took a break from dreaming of deltoids and D List fame to check social media and noticed my favorite band, Blur, had announced a comeback. They’d be putting out their first new album in twelve years and play a homecoming concert in London’s Hyde Park. I dropped my weights on the feet of a few hockey players and pushed my way past the faceless chiseled and toned, out the front doors, and finished my workout running down Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue screaming at innocent passerbys, “I HAVE TO GO TO LONDON TO SEE BLUR!!!!!!!! PARKLIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU KNOW??? NO???? BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME??? WOO HOO SONG 2!!!!!!! WOO HOO!!!! THAT SONG!!!!!!!!! I HAVE TO GO TO THEM IN LONDON!!!!!!!!”
I dove into the Charles River and swam to the nearest Duck Boat, packed full of innocent tourists. I leapt from the shallow, serene waters onto the aft bill and slipped my way past the driver. I kissed the tour guide on his gaping mouth. He fell to the floor, stunned. I seized the microphone of the intercom system and breathlessly explained, “OK SO THEY NEVER BROKE AMERICA AND HAVE A SORT OF VENDETTA AGAINST PLAYING THE STATES BECAUSE THEIR ORIGINAL MANAGER STOLE ALL THEIR PROFITS FROM THEIR FIRST U.S. TOUR AND OF COURSE THEY’RE HELLA ENGLISH IN SHEER ENERGY BUT THE POINT IS THEY ARE,” I took in breath, “MY FAVORITE BAND PLAYING MY FAVORITE PLACE IN MY FAVORITE CITY!!!!!”
“Oh, wow, when?” the tour guide, having recently regained consciousness, politely inquired, still lying on the floor of the boat near my feet.
“FIVE DAYS BEFORE MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I jumped over the tour guide and dove over the side of the boat back into the Charles. The tourists all stood and applauded before putting their duck noise-makers in their mouths and following suit.
We swam the length of the river back to its Echo Lake origin in Hopkinton, quacking in ecstasy the whole time.
Finally, exhausted, we reached the lakeshore.
A gentle elderly woman sat beside me.
“Oi,” she greeted me, tired. She was dripping wet.
“Oi,” I respectfully returned.
She sighed. “Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as?”
“Parklife,” I returned. “A morning suit can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as?”
“Parklife,” she affirmed. “John’s got brewer’s droop; he gets intimidated by the dirty pidgeons… they love a bit of it…”
“Parklife!” I retorted. “Who’s that gut lord marching!? You should cut down on your porklife, mate — get some exercise!”
She chuckled. We rose from the shore, hand in hand, and began to frolic about greenery.
“All the people…” we chanted, “so many people! And they all! Go! Hand in hand! Hand in hand through their… parklife!”
We fell back into a thicket. She leaned over me, laughing. From a small purse she produced a large, dark bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, opened it using just her teeth, and poured it out all over me.
“Oh my baby!!” I squealed.
“Oh my baby!!!” she yipped.
“Oh why!?” I begged.
“Oh my,” she gasped. Tiny bubbles were forming in my skin all over my body. I was melting.
“Come on, come on, come on,” she encanted, “get through it! Come on, come on, come on…”
I had been reduced to a stewy puddle, my more prominent features bobbing about in the thick goop — my coif remained in one piece, remarkably — and the old woman waved her arms in wild circles above me.
Somehow, I could hear gentle acoustic guitar strumming. My vision blurred, perhaps because my eyes had become submerged in liquid-form-me. I blacked out.
I awoke some time later in my bed, fully intact, in my solid physical form. Somehow, I had changed into new clothes different from the soaking gym attire I donned through my Charles River adventure. I blearily rummaged around my bedside table for my phone and picked it up. No time had passed since my leaving the gym; it was midday. I had three email notifications.
“Your Virgin Atlantic e-ticket 6/17/15–6/22/15”
“Reservation confirmation: Holiday Inn Kensington Forum 6/17/15”
“Confirmation & e-ticket: BLUR, British Summer Time, June 20, 2015.”
From my vantage point then — early March, halfway through my final semester of college — it was all I wanted: to celebrate and mark my graduation and begin the adventure of ~post-grad adulthood~ with a solo pilgrimage to the city in which I rediscovered my identity and passion after heartbreak a year and a half prior. It would allow me a check-in with my desires and dreams, and hopefully yield proof I could take on whatever was to come in the life that was about to unfold beneath the weathered black leather shoes that had spent so much time ambling about the Thames. It was all I wanted and now, a dream come true.
Time dutifully marched forwards, and as I moved on from my undergraduate experience, I began falling in love with a really nice man.
On the occasion of our first date, we spent a lot of time making stupid jokes at each other and drinking rose-colored cocktails. It was the first beautiful Spring day that year, and the whole Earth seemed to sigh and stretch itself out before us in embrace of some new lease on life.
When it was time for me to return home, I decided to walk something like six miles through the various parks that ripple through Boston like a fuzzy eel. I strode about the Earth that seemed to move with me on a day that felt it could never end if I wanted it bad enough. I listened to a song off the newly released Blur album, Damon Albarn singing the refrain in his sunniest English tenor, “To the islands, the black kites, the wishing tree… I wanna be with you! On a slow boat to Lantao, the misty seas… I wanna be with you!!!”
I could’ve flown home that day. Maybe I did.
Over the next few months, my heartbeat pumped along to my mounting love, crescendoing to counterpoint even the most dissonant melodies of my noisy first foray into what everyone had convinced me must be adulthood.
I worked at a spa, watched the clock, and day-dreamt of love.
I walked my town, listened to music, and sang along love.
I went on dates, breathed in kindness and curiosity and humor, and exhaled love.
I fell and found myself. I fell and found comfort, safety, and joy.
So when the day arrived for me to act in the presupposed spirit of post-grad adult liberation and flit across the pond for a flirt with my international mistress hometown, it felt less like falling further into love and more like being pulled, perhaps even torn, between two different dreams for my future.
And yet I went.
When one has international airfare, accommodations, and concert tickets, one goes. One allows for a once-in-a-lifetime sort-of thing no matter the external circumstances — for que sera, sera; whatever will be, will be — and one goes.
I pounded back a few half bottles of Merlot at a Logan airport wine bar, boarded my flight, drunk texted my stateside sweetheart and fell asleep.
That night, I dreamt of nothing but the stars.
And when I woke, I was touching down twenty kilometres from my heart’s home. My spirit warmed awake, shook free from its comfy alcoholic cocoon with ease, like dropping a silken robe, and called on the rest of my faculties to take me where I need be.
My legs — the workhorse of the body, as an English professor of mine once called them — carried me off the plane and to baggage claim. My heart politely asked my mind and motor functions to secure airport Wifi so I could inform my mother and my boyfriend I was safe and sound across an ocean. My internal compass guided me to the train and dusted off the old map of London I had printed on the back of my heart.
I caught the Piccadilly line eastbound into London and watched, as we speedily traversed the above-ground portion of the route, through the Tube car windows as the world seemed to spring up from beneath me like my soul’s most favorite pop-up book. I listened to Blur. Damon sang, on the new album’s opening track, “going down to Lonesome Street,” as if heralding a triumphant return instead of a loss. I breathed in the verdant summer green and the clean white, sad grey, and proud brick of English suburbia before the train was plunged into the magic urban darkness of the city centre’s subway tunnels.
I felt positively immense.
Finally, I arrived at my stop and rose to street level.
I cried. This place was still here; it didn’t go away, it didn’t change. It kept existing, hustling, and bustling while I was back in Boston, growing up and moving on, becoming stronger and falling in love. This perhaps pedantic lesson hit me clear across the face; it was the first time in my life I surrendered to the overwhelmingly beautiful poetry and power of the Earth simply continuing to spin on its axis. Keep calm and carry on, indeed.
I went to check in at my hotel, but I was too early and there was no room yet ready for me. While I did want to change my clothes and wash my face and reach out to my stateside safe-keepers, I wanted even more to dive right back into my favorite London pastime, put on my music, and walk about my favorite place in the world, Hyde Park.
I checked my bags with the concierge and began out.
I astonished at the sheer English summertime life bounding all around me; the day glowed not only with the high noon sun but with the energy of a city truly at play and enjoying it. Within minutes, I passed through the gates before the Royal Albert monument and was in my happiest place. I snaked beneath the shadows of the tallest trees and around the winding tan paths of the park towards the park’s breathtaking centerpiece, its mirror of the heavens, Serpentine Lake.
I reached the water and shuffled excitedly towards my favorite spot in the whole wide world — a bridge that crosses the lake at one end. From its very center-most point, I had come countless times to look out, wax poetic, wane emotion, and gain perspective on the big, beautiful world around me. I would see myself in scale there — beneath the sky blue sky, before the quenching cool water, and hugged by thriving trees’ exhalations.
I stood long enough to find myself, and for my jet lag to find me, too.
A swan paddled its way beneath the bridge and bellowed out to me, “food.”
“Serpentine Cafe has beautiful views of the lake and the park and serves a delicious cafe menu as well as assorted soft drinks, beer, wine, and craft cocktails,” it suggested.
“I know. I haven’t been away that long.”
“Then stop acting like it’s been an age,” it paddled away.
I slunk into the cafe and anxiously ordered a lamb burger and a gin and tonic. I paid with coins. (How I love paying with coins!!) I sat before a window that simulated my favorite view and waited for my provisions. I took out the book I was reading, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World — about ambling around Paris, another mistress city of mine — and opened it.
A big, bright pink folded note fell out. My heart leapt into my throat. On its outside was a heart drawn in thin-point Sharpie.
I opened the note. It was from him, of course.
“Michael,” it began.
I couldn’t read the rest because my eyes had been immediately sieged by tears. My breath quickened to combat, but it was no use. The surprise attack had rendered all my resistance most futile.
I put it away and caught up with my emotions. I feared the other café dwellers would catch me weeping alone in public and I was not prepared to make a scene. Not yet, at least.
But I had to read further. I opened the note once again, peeling past the heart on the outside and gently perusing past the greeting to, “I hope you — ”
All was lost. I was grimacing to hold in a most ugly cry, my breath trapped between my chest and throat, my eyes fixed skyward to trap any renegade tears that though they’d get away this time.
“NO!!” I commanded myself.
“Sorry?” my waiter asked.
I snapped to attention. There he was before me, holding a tray with a lamb burger and a gin and tonic.
“Oh. Ha! Yeah, sorry. Cheers.” I clambered to save face. The only problem was mine had already melted.
“This yours? Lamb burger, double gin tonic?”
“Yes! Yes. It is. Thank you.”
I was mortified. I mopped up my tears with my lamb burger bun and drowned my happy sorrows in my gin and tonic.
I peeled the note open again and surfed on the tidal wave of emotion my soul brought forth in response to the sweetest message in a bottle that I could ever imagine drifting across the Atlantic with me.
What fortune I had, to feel love yet venture so far from home and what I’d known before. This, a lesson for the ages: comfort, safety, and joy are not necessarily bound by geography.
Later, I checked into my hotel room, showered, and chatted with home before venturing to dinner with a former dance professor.
We wined and dined at Jamie’s Italian Kitchen in Covent Garden and delighted in the sacred sort of conversation only possible between mentor and mentee. I wrung from her wisdom and wry wit about all sorts of successes and failures. She reveled in my rapid-fire free confessions of my newfound adulthood and training put to practice beyond our time in a classroom.
After my second glass of wine, I told her of my newfound romance.
“Well, you’ll have to come back with him next year,” she implored through sly smile, “I’d love to meet him… I’m sure he’s lovely.”
I effervesced; her suggestion plunging me, an alka seltzer tablet, into a cool glass of seltzer.
My heart bubbled over onto the winding London sidewalks. I walked back through the streets I had no right to know so well and found my way home to my hotel. I checked in with home and went to bed early so I’d be rested for my date with my favorite band the next day. I fell asleep watching Beyoncé music videos, buzzing, “Drunk in Love.”
The next morning, I went to a souvenir shop and bought a fanny pack. I returned to my hotel room, ate a breakfast toastie I bought from Pret a Manger (better overseas), and packed all the essentials for a safe day at a music festival: a bottle of water, a poncho, my phone, my passport (in the off chance a bar ID’d me), and my ticket. I had a cup of cheap wine I had bought on my way home the night before and messaged my mother and my newfound inamorata, “I’m going to the show! I probably won’t be able to talk to you till after… I’ll be safe!” I set out.
I arrived something like ten hours before Blur were due to the stage. I had a drink or two but mostly just camped, snapping pictures on the Kodak disposable camera I had brought with me from home for #authentic #memories when the whole thing was said and done.
Openers came and went. The crowd grew. I was only one row of people from the front. Rain fell for a while. The sky cleared. I lived a life waiting for Blur to take the stage, and for that, my excitement overtook me when nirvana finally arrived as the first notes of their set rang out.
Damon, Graham, Alex, and Dave took the stage. We all screamed, some ten plus thousand of us.
Then, all ten plus thousand pushed towards the stage — save for me — and I was slammed by an ale-soaked wall of mosh-ready humanity powered by Britpop sentimentality.
Immediately, I was terrified. It felt like drowning.
I pushed against the uncontrollable mass to keep my footing on the loose muddy park ground. I smiled and sang along, threw my arms up in the air, and attempted to force myself to lose abandon and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But I couldn’t keep my heart from racing, my breath from growing shorter and more frustrated, my mind from fantasizing a most gruesome and troubling demise for me on my solo adventure overseas.
Would this ever settle down??? It must, right?! Everyone can’t keep this up for three hours!!!
The first song came to a close and the crowd cooled momentarily before Blur launched into a ballad.
I let out a sigh of relief — finally, a break from the — SLAM!
WHY ARE THEY MOSHING THROUGH A BALLAD ABOUT OVERCROWDING IN GLOBAL MEGACITIES?!?!!!!? THIS IS TOO IRONIC TO BE A THREAT TO MY LIVELIHOOD.
Oh, God, this isn’t even that aggro… what would happen during “Song 2?” Would I make it out alive, or would I squelch out my last “WOO HOO!!” before being stomped to death under the foot of a few hundred over-eager LADS.
I was immediately terrified that my six foot tall, two hundred pound adult body would fall victim to crowd crush. Irrational?? Well, considering that I could likely consume one of the members of Blur whole in one sitting and not even bloat, perhaps!
But the grimaces on the now-compressed faces of the slight and elderly being slammed, lifted, and ultimately pummeled between bopping brogues suggested otherwise. My chest tensed as I tried to lock my knees and plant feet in the mud.
Surely I can withstand this with my young sturdy frame!!! I’m A Man!!!!! Masc4masc? More like Masc4StandingMyGround!!!!!!!!!
Graham had broken out his acoustic for a solo love song and the moshing inexplicably increased.
I have to get out of here.
I finally gave into dread, panic, sheer mortality.
If I don’t escape now, I will die abroad on foreign shores and be ground into fertilizer by the feet of those descended from kings and queens, my soul bound in servitude to the ghosts that haunt this isle.
“I might need to get out!!” I shouted to the crowd around me.
“YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” they responded, not having heard me.
I told them I’d be safe. I need to get back to my boyfriend! I need to see my mother again!!! I must live to tell!!!!!!
Just then, I noticed big strapping security guards the size of assembled-Transformers were extracting the pained and crushed diminutive crowd members among us by literally lifting them by their arms from the crowd.
I admitted defeat, hoisted my jeans up, and tried to weasel my way through the throng towards the guards.
This pilgrimage is important. It is important I live this adventure. But it is more important I survive this adventure.
“I need to get OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I shrieked.
That caught their attention. I’m pretty sure one (or a dozen) of them cackled, “you, mate!??!?!”
“I NEED TO GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
My seriousness began to translate through my accent.
“This one!!” “He’s got to get up there!!!!” “Let the big boy through!!!!!!!”
And so they did.
I swam through the thick flesh to the front of the barricades and confronted my savior, a sentient mass of muscle with a buzz-cut wearing a neon-green-trimmed shirt that served simply to shriek for attention on behalf of his god-like form.
“You?” the security guard greeted me.
“I NEEEEED TO GET OUUUUUTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is the sound that escaped my unhinged jaw upon meeting the gentleman at the front of the barricade.
“Lift your arms.”
He slipped his meat-hooks beneath my armpits and began to pull, wresting my little, skinny-jean’d legs from their muddy embed. I squealed wildly, my legs kicking free around the faces of many of my former crowd-mates. They shielded themselves and helped me along, or, more likely, away. For one single moment, I was crowd-surfing, horizontal among the living human mass that had moments ago threatened my very life.
I looked up in relief, and there he was: Damon Albarn, forefather of Britpop, frontman of Blur, Gorillaz, and countless side projects. For that single moment, he saw me in my six-foot-tall, two-hundred-pound American flesh form, and noticed me as I was needfully wrestled from the kind of crowd he’d played before his whole career by a giant muscle.
For a second, I blacked out.
My feet hit the ground and a security guard was escorting me to a designated drop-off area for ejectees.
“I had to get out of there!! Ha ha!!”
My new area had a side-view of the stage right outside the mosh-pit. It was heaven — deservedly close to the stage considering my tireless wait, but roomy, outside the battling bodies.
I could dance. I could breathe. I could before me, behind me, and skyward at the breaking clouds revealing the most idyllic English sunset.
The concert unfolded like hoppy poetry rambling about the crowd assembled over what seemed to my grateful eyes as all the Earth there could be in this given moment. It was bliss.
When dark ultimately fell, the event itself shone as the brightest star in my galaxy, and I was its glitter, beaming through the entirety of my life and experience to all my affections.
Their final song, “The Universal,” rang out through my cosmos and I danced.
“Every paper that you read/says, ‘tomorrow’s your lucky day!’/Well, here’s your lucky day!/It really, really, really could happen./Yes, it really really really could happen!!!/When the days, they seem to fall through you, well just!!! Let them go!!!!!!!”
They always did, and I complied in the past, so I did again then.
I lifted off, my spirit soaring higher than my extracting security guard could ever lift me as the exquisite string-and-horn arrangement sounding like arriving royalty carried me from the stage front all the way back to the furthest reaches of the humanity-sized crowd before falling effortlessly off the edge of the Earth itself into the histories.
My world was sheer blissful noise and all I could see was stars.
When I came to, a stranger had my phone and was taking my picture amongst the exiting throng.
I bounded back to my hotel and texted those I loved.
“What a day.”
I slept sound.
The next day, I had brunch with my dear friend Izzie, who was living abroad at the time, and I was set to meet up with her after dinner for drinks. Seduced by my memories of the night before, I was drawn back to the scene of the crime with full knowledge that Sunday’s festival performers were purposed to celebrate Gay Pride and that the day culminated in a headline set from Queen of the Gayest Land (Australia) (for it is Down Under), Kylie Minogue.
Homosexuals of all shapes and sizes — twinks, otters, and bears (oh my!) — streamed into the park to the timekeeping pop-house beats of Years & Years with an urgency, frequency, and number that would easily outstrip the more organized procession of animals aboard Noah’s Ark. The manifest, too, appeared almost as diverse as the cast of the groundbreaking Logo series of a similar name, too!
I need to go to there!!! The flood is coming and heterosexuals are probably at fault, and I need to go to there!!!!!! I want to… I will survive… and thrive and get into heaven!!!!!!!! And I want to get into heaven NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!
I didn’t have a ticket. I sauntered aimlessly until a scraggly and elderly woman came up to me.
“Looking for a ticket for tonight, luv?”
“YASSSS MAWMAHHHH,” I answered politely.
“Twenty quid, my darling.”
I gave her my life savings a twenty pound note, tore off my inhibitions, and galloped into the park for the festival, throwing my scalped ticket at the nearest attendant with a wink.
I assimilated fast.
Today I have no appointments but to enjoy myself. Today I have no appointments but to be Gay in every sense of the word. Today I have no appointments but…. to DRINK and to DANCE!!!!!
I inhaled a few margaritas and found some delightful English soccer moms (who were waiting for their babies to fall asleep to reveal themselves to be homosexual men in disguise) to shriek with.
“You’re the tits, hunny!!!!!!” one exclaimed at me.
I died and was reborn instantaneously as Years & Years finished their set only to introduce Mika as their follow up. I leveled-up and grew several sizes. Rhinestones popped out at the ends of my clavicle. My lips naturally tinted fuchsia. Even if the babies were asleep, I knew I had to relocate.
I pointed my rhinestones forward and rammed through the crowd towards the stage.
These homos don’t even know what moshing is. I will be safe among the gays!!
When I resurfaced, I found myself very good friends with a pair of good-looking Portuguese Danes. One could not have been more excited to exalt Queen Kylie. The other was hammered. I loved them both.
The three of us salivated over Mika along with the rest of the crowd, forming something like a marsh in the grasslands of Hyde Park with our drool.
The drunk Dane wanted the kind Dane to go with him to get a drink.
“Why don’t you go get us all drinks and me and Michael will stay here??” the kind Dane asked the drunk Dane.
“Because you like Michael more than me!!” the drunk Dane answered.
“Michael has nothing to do with it, I like most people more than you,” the kind Dane retorted.
I was anointed.
“Fine!! Michael, you are wonderful, what do you want?”
“!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I answered, which he thankfully translated to, “one gin & tonic, please, you pretty and drunken Dane.”
While the drunk Dane was away, the kind Dane and I got to know each other. His name was Carlos and he had recently gotten married to the love of his life. I blushed, thinking about the man with whom my affections lied back home. He noticed and so I divulged all sorts of speculative details and dreams. He warned me of the technicalities of life and the pressures and challenges they impose upon a relationship. I was grateful.
We had become friends by the time the drunken Dane returned with our drinks. Kylie was about to take the stage. We all toasted to the Queen and downed our cocktails.
My mind’s eye grew a dozen sizes (a.k.a. I became Drunk™), and the Queen herself emerged to the strains of one of her latest gay-baiting anthems, “Les Sex.”
Thousands of homosexual jaws park-wide unhinged to release the most primal yawp possible. There was no crowd push or crush or stress. There was only bopping and bouncing, reveling and romancing, kindness and Kylie.
It was heaven.
Carlos and I jumped and sang and danced beside each other with the drunken Dane close behind all night long.
Our neighbor gays shared set-list guesses and memories of Kylie with us and we vice versa.
Again, it was heaven.
The sun set on all the lovers in the crowd, the stars shining bright above our Aphrodite, Kylie, and she bestowed unto us her last song of the evening, the last tune of my pilgrimage.
“Dance…/It’s all I wanna do, so won’t you dance?/I’m standing here with you, why won’t you move?/I’ll get inside your groove; ‘cuz I’m on fire, fire, fire…/It hurts, when you get to close, oh baby…/It hurts. If love is really good, you just want more,/even if it throws you to the fire, fire, fire…”
I thought of my past, my present and my present love, and the brilliant and sterling future I had ahead of me and then —
“All the lovers/that have come before,/they don’t compare…/to you.”
The song grew and grew to that refrain, the stars and the summer and my life itself showering down upon us like the champagne with which I celebrated my arrival to adulthood.
“Don’t be frightened./Just give me a little bit more./They don’t compare…/all the lovers.”
“You must really love him,” Carlos said to me over cocktails after the show, “to be here, all the way across the ocean, to see some concerts and dance with strangers.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure I do…” I admitted shyly.
“Of course you do!! But why would you leave to see Blur and Mika and Kylie?” he shrugged.
“Why did you leave your husband to come to London to do the same?!”
“Because life is long,” he offered.
“And Kylie.” We laughed. The drunken Dane snoozed nearby.
“And I’m bigger than one place. And one time. And I get to go back to him and home and my whole life, more sure of myself, with songs and stories to share that will last me, I’m pretty sure, the rest of my life.”
I can still feel the crowd crushing me during Blur’s opening numbers.
I can still feel my feet lifting off the ground when I was pulled out of the mosh-pit and then the same feet flying higher and higher as my favorite band finished their monumental set in my favorite place on Earth.
I can still feel the warmth and generosity of the brotherhood gathered to kiss Queen Kylie’s feet at her alter of song in that sacred green park. I can still sense the confetti that fell on our shoulders as she sang her last anthemic chorus, crowning us the torchbearers of love and kindness, and joining strangers in the spirit of affection forever.
I can still sing the songs, and tell the stories and will forever.
I returned home the next day on a flight direct from Heathrow to Boston and took a cab to my boyfriend’s apartment with English cookies (and tales) to share with him and all his friends. I woke up in my bed in London and went to sleep, besides him in his, in Somerville, Massachusetts.
It’s almost as if my life had finally begun with this trip. Maybe I had to set myself off my course by traveling overseas, all by myself, to see just how the course began. Or, perhaps I was baptized anew in a church of music and history far across the pond by my experiences wading through the waters of song and spirit that my very own soul had chosen for me.
Either way, I will never live down the sensation of being lifted off the ground before a mass of foreigners in my favorite place on this good, green Earth. And nor would I wish. In fact, I may never, ever come down.