Swans of Hyde Park

For all those who have seen my attempt to clap “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” you’ll understand the depth of what I am about to say: my musical ability is just above my artistic ability. I am extremely creative, I lack the execution. Mostly, I’d put glitter on every surface available. 

Knowing this I’m somewhat amazed that my mother gave in to my pleas to let me tag along with my high school’s art class trip to Europe. You would think the high school art teacher would have been a little wise since I had never taken a single art class with no intention to ever do so either. Turns out the art teacher didn’t speak any foreign languages (well, maybe Spanish but we weren’t schedule to visit Spain) and had never been out of the country. How this didn’t come up in one of the parent meetings prior to the trip is beyond me. For sixteen year old Muffy, this was lining up to be the trip of a lifetime. Man, was it ever. 

Back then airlines gave you free alcoholic beverages in flight and once you hit international waters drinking age was eighteen. Close enough for me! The adventures of underage underage drinking will be for another time. 
Among the museum tours and lots and lots of cathedrals, there was even more free time with even less supervision. Full abandonment of any delusion my chaperone had any control over us was lost in Paris, only our second stop. That I’ll save for tomorrow’s Tuesday Travel Tip. 
Always the heartbreaker, of course I met boys; even an American in Switzerland who I dated after returning to the States. After all, I am enchanting. But, there was one in London. 

All this time later, I’ve lost the memory of how we met. Before cellphones and Tinder, it would have been simply by chance. Packed away in one of the two storage bins I have stored away there’s a photo of us together. He was gorgeous and I was a sun kissed bubbly teen. If only you could savor that kind of carefree for when you are older, beyond having it as a memory, for days when the stress is too much. 

We took a bottle of wine and snuck into Hyde Park after dark. He laughed at my accent and I soaked up his as he tried to explain to me their version grades in high school. We looked for the stars and I told him at my house you could see them all since I didn’t live in the city. He told me how much he loved American Dr. Pepper. We told stories about everything, secrets about nothing, and whispered into the breeze until dawn. Minus the whole breaking into a park, it was an evening of innocence that seems like more than enough when you’re sixteen. 

Eventually, the sun came up and the swans started to wake. As the flock began their way to the water, I started to make my way to the hotel. Curfew was long gone and I was supposed to catch a ferry for Paris. They may have missed me at bed count, but I had a suspicion someone might take notice upon leaving the country. 

He could come with me, no he couldn’t. Even at sixteen, I knew he was going to be a better memory than reality. Now more than twice my age then, that still holds true. When I gave back his hoodie, he gave me his ring. I thought my heart might break when he kissed me goodbye. It could have been a movie. This was a movie, maybe something about a train?

There had been a trio of us and he had a pair of friends with him. They made us laugh, we all had drinks. We were at the age that all we wanted were for boys to talk to us, cute boys with British accents? Yes, please. We paired off. 

Who knows who he grew up to be. All those dreams we planned that night, I couldn’t even tell you what mine were back then, who knew if his came true. Mine were either plans to go to one day become a lawyer (I was really close) or something completely outlandish (which I am doing exceedingly well with). 
It is a different time and a different place. His name was Amid, he was Muslim. Or maybe, I guess he is Muslim. There are many, many reasons now why I wouldn’t wander off in another country with a man (especially not to break the law by breaking into a park). Even in my own country I would not wander off with a man. There is more darkness lurking in the dark when you’re an adult.

It is a different time and place, in this day and age…I probably never would have met Amid. My exploits would have a snapchat filter lost in technology, not a photo for me to hold and remember. I’d never have been unconnected from my parents or chaperones long enough to make a memory. I worry that if we had met this day, this age in this time and place that him being Muslim and me being an American would not have just been tiny parts of us that didn’t factor into our story. I worry it would have been all of our story if we even got that far. Mostly, I worry that instead of him being amazed that back in America we say “y’all,” he’d be amazed at how back in America they say “terrorist” without even knowing him.

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