I’ll Be My Own Flying Buttress

By Tenley Thompson, TIWP Student

It’s easier to fall in love with places than people, because places live on, undying. They change, but not as much as people do; the basic foundations are all still the same. Buildings don’t lose their brilliance when they chip and gather musty darkness in the crevices; even when they’re completely broken down, split apart to the last atom by the eternal human lust for power. They draw tourists like flies, each clamoring for a precious glimpse of the ruins because the one thing people don’t know how to do is let go of the past.

Places are easy to love because everything is moving, revolving carefully around each other like the stars racing around a planetarium. Bikes whiz past, bright green with the familiar click of gears ticking down time, watching the sun rise behind laundry sheets and spires and then spill into the river in the evening, blanketing the city in the peach-orange glass glow that all the street artists wash their paintings with. It’s pointless to worry about where you’re supposed to be when there’s nothing left but to carry yourself over the sidewalk and let your feet memorize the ground below.

It’s easy to love the benches and the bridges and the street signs that blend in with the bricks. It’s easy to love the stained glass, centuries old, and the shiny windows of a cafe that fit around an archway. It’s easy to love the courtyards and gardens, the markets and the monuments, the simplicity and the grandeur. It all feels inexplicably familiar even if it’s new on your eyes, as if you’ve lived enough that you’re constantly swallowing surprise for amazement.

Places are easy to love because they can be anything you want them to be. Backpack over your shoulder and wide-eyed under sunglasses, excitement is a fever dream that lets you ignore the dull pain of your overworked feet. Each city is less magical than Disneyland, and yet more so because of the aching truth of its history. It’s quiet in a comfortable way, in a strand of consciousness that lets you know what people have seen, what they understand, how they go on.

As effortless as it is to love, the value of a place isn’t entirely the site itself. The certainty of that makes it harder to grasp, because there’s so much here. How could it not be enough alone? It’s only when you’re courting midnight on the tram without a ticket, drunk on the novelty of being alive, that the immeasurability of it hits you. The rawness is striking, the world dark with the irrevocability of your breath, deceptively quiet and miles from home.

If you weren’t here, none of this would exist. Nothing would shimmer for the locals the way it does in your eyes. Cathedrals looming huge like they were meant to make you feel forgotten. Coffee and cake swallowed slow and sweet over a late afternoon. Foreign coins emblazoned with kings pressed warm in your pocket. These things would be there, but they wouldn’t be yours.

Places are easy to love because you make them your own.

 

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