The River in the City


The river. The only place I believed I would find peace, serenity, clarity in this strangling city.

Fresh air, as they say, is what I thought was needed to escape the four walls that have occupied the past year of my life. I needed somewhere new to collect my thoughts. Reflect on everything that has troubled my mind.

I wanted to feel the bitterness of the cold. That snap you feel instantly walking out from a warm building. Tonight wasn’t the case. There was nothing to be felt. No “fresh air”. 2.45am, I wanted the streets to be almost empty. Though quieter, it was what I expected.

The city was louder than I’ve seen it. Trucks, buses building works, everywhere. Industry everywhere. Polution. People could be seen but not heard.

St. Pauls Cathedral. Silence. It was eerie. Then the thud of the Cathedral bells at 3am stunned me. It was time to move on and find the river.

Every stranger becomes an enemy during the night. Someone to be afraid of. But why? They may just be searching for peace as I was. I never quite understood why each time I saw a stranger I’d walk faster to pass them quicker. I was scared. Even a homeless man sitting on a bench made me panic. Why should I be the one to panic when he is the one who does not have a home?

I reached the river. Beautiful. But what I was searching for something. Even I did not know what I was searching was nor where I would find it.

4am. A man, slightly old, on his way to work I presumed, passed by me and simply said “Mornin’”. I snapped into a new dimension. These people were not a threat. Still dealing with this realisation, I replied shakily with “Good Morning”. He asked me if I was okay, to which I replied “I’m okay thankyou” as though I was a browsing customer in a shop. Soon after I wished I had asked him how he was.

A step towards the right direction. it was time to find somewhere to sit and write about how I felt. It seemed I was besotted with the idea that I needed to find the most beautiful spot of the river to find peace. I was wrong. Searching for this beauty interrupted any peace I was to attain. My own footsteps, walking fast, through the roads and the riverside, did not give me the chance to hear the faint ripples of the river. That was all I needed. Stand still. Listen.

So now I sit here, on this wall, the river beneath me and I have found serenity in the sound of the ripples. The sound of the city remains in the distance, but it differs. It does not overwhelm me.

It’s roughly 4.30am, the river is more beautiful now. The sky is becoming a lighter shade of blue. Both my phone and my camera have run out of battery, I couldn’t care less. In fact I like it. I would have been sitting here, trying to take a picture that justifies the sight, whilst listening to music which tells me how I feel. This time, it is just me. And my thoughts.

I have no idea what time it is. I did not resolve the problem that lingered in my mind before I came here. But the sky is lighter. The ripples of the river are harsher. And I can finally feel the cold I wished to feel before. This moment is perfect. With that, I know it’s time for me to go home. And I’ve found a place I’m safe, where I know each person I pass by, I can give a faint smile.

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