I will not tell stories of my travels in order. For some people, linear narrative helps convey memory in a particular way that is suitable and helpful for them. There is a comfort to organizing events: x preceded y before causing z. I find that my thoughts and observations are often too muddled to make these linear progressions appropriately. When I was a child, it was always pointed out to me that this was one of my greatest faults. Now, I find it--this reluctance to adhere to a classical, dramatic timeline--to be one of my foremost strengths.
I know that there are times when telling stories from beginning to end in a very straightforward way is the best, and only, way to do things.
This time is not one of them.
For right now, I'd rather tell the stories as I remember them, and as I choose to remember them.
In the St. Pancras railway station in London is the Thomas Pink store. Even though this store--famous for selling men's* velveteen pure cotton dress shirts with crisp collars -- is tucked within glass doors melding it with the red brick of the original building, the juxtaposition isn't nearly as bothersome architecturally as it might seem upon description.
Mr. Pink was having a sale on his shirts, and my traveling companion, a tall strapping sort of gentleman, motioned that we stop in to take a look. He (to whom I shall henceforth call Mr. Hertfordshire or Mr. H for short) then announced that he wanted to find a suitable dress shirt for himself, and so he promptly entered the store and began marveling at the sale prices. I walked in behind him and watched as an impeccably dressed salesman from Italy rushed to his service.
I quietly admired the organizational pattern of the shop. Shirts, sweaters, boxer shorts, and ties, were all meticulously organized in every color and nearly every tasteful, distinctive, pattern imaginable.
I can't even recall what the women's section contained, but then again, I haven't enjoyed shopping in eight years. In any case, this brick-walled and glass store seemed dedicated to men, and in particular, it was dedicated to men such as Mr. H--ruddy-faced, patrician types, who wear these sorts of clothes as though the tailor himself dreamed it for each and every one of them.
Another salesman looked up to see who had entered the store and after greeting us both, it was quite obvious that he too had begun to make visual approximations of Mr. H's shirt size. The examination was without emotion and desire. It was silent, nearly clinical. This second salesman then moved to organize ties--and I was left to wonder whether or not his measurements were spot on.
The Italian salesman appeared to be quite in love with Mr. H's youth and apparently outdoorsy nature and overall health. His attentions did not seem motivated by the amount in commission that Mr. H might provide, however. There was a genuine appreciation of his form. At some point or other, Mr. H had mentioned that the world "wasn't built for men of [his] stature, madam. I have to fold up to sit in seats; nothing is the right size." However, by the ardent looks of this salesman, I really could not help but beg to differ.
Feeling utterly useless, and the victim of desynchronosis, I chose to wander off, leaving the store to get some coffee thereby allowing the salesman ample time to devote to his Petrarchan conceit of Mr. H's form and face.
I returned to the shop with a cloyingly sweet mocha to watch the end of the drama unfold. As I entered the door, the salesman was complimenting Mr. H so very earnestly. The salesman noticed my reentry.
"Are you with him?" the salesman demanded, but then disallowed me from answering by blurting out, "Of course you are."
Before trying to explain that no one could really ever be with Mr. H, the salesman turned back to tell Mr. H once again how healthy and well formed he happens to be. Mr. H bantered with the salesman while the purchases were rung up, and then reached over, rather unceremoniously I might add, and took my coffee and drank some of it. (I noticed earlier and later that Mr. H is very comfortable with extemporaneous sharing--unless ice cream is involved. For the record, there are times when I don't want to share and for some reason, Mr. H seemed to bypass any and all objections I would otherwise have expressed. )
As the very colonial Mr. H commandeered my coffee, I noticed that he filled the aisle of the shop as we were standing there. At more than eleven inches taller than I am, Mr. H certainly also seemed to fill the door as the salesman offered to hold his purchases while we spent the day gamboling throughout the museum.
"You're dressed so well in that jacket, Mr. H, for the museum is quite chilly. Enjoy your day!" Mr. H's face lit up as he thanked the salesman for all of his help.
To my chagrin, I had to admit, if only to myself, that one couldn't help but notice Mr. H.
So, yes. Perhaps the salesman was on to something.
*I am aware that it sells women's clothing as well.