The Eye of London: A Memoir from 443 Feet in the Air.

June 4, 2013
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I have a tendency to forget about events that happened in my life, things that impact me in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. I recently went to the United Kingdom to visit family and took a ride on the Eye of London, the gigantic Ferris wheel that is so often featured in postcards, or pictures, or television commercials, and – to keep my memory from fading – I want to document the sobering experience now, while it is still burned into the backs of my eyelids, before the memories fade. The pictures won’t go anywhere, I know that, but I can’t see my thoughts in the 147 images I still flip through on my phone. I can, however, read them. So I think I will start a series of memoirs to myself, documenting my various thoughts from places I go to. Taking my mother’s advice, I will write to you, Zanib Zulfiqar, in a feeble attempt to render your memories useful… or just to talk to you.

It doesn’t matter which.

Here I am, standing in line to get aboard the Eye of London, the one, huge piece of machinery that got so much attention for – what I thought – just spinning in a slow, pathetic circle over the city of London, thinking about wanting to get an ice-cream cone and going back to bed. It’s 10:15am right now, and the line zigzags across the concrete tile, the bustling, excited people paying no mind to the invisible Me, busy picking up their jumping children to keep them from running off. I stared up to the top of the massive structure, craning my neck so far, I had to lower my gaze to swallow down the ball of fear congealed in my throat; I don’t really trust machinery.

I don’t know why I came here, besides following my mother’s lead, because I found all of this so pointless. It was about $75 for a ticket, far too much for my family to afford for one hour of spinning in a slow circle, watching the world go by for only an hour, something I already did on my flight over.

The day was sunny and bright, with a snap of cold, icy breezes that smelled and tasted faintly of salt. And fish. Lots of fish. My hands were stuffed into the pockets of my brown coat, balled into tiny fists, numb from the cold. My feet ached from all the walking I had done in the weeks leading up to this, all the asking around for other attractions and finding cathedrals and old churches I could visit later finally taking a toll on my equally tiny feet.

I pulled out my phone as we climbed aboard the massive thing, into pods of about twenty people. We were lined up on a pad next to the London Eye, as we had to clamor into the pods while the Ferris wheel was still moving, the knot in my throat threatening to pull tears from my eyes; okay, so maybe it wasn’t so slow after all.

My mother grabbed my hand as we hopped on, her girly giggle tugging the corners of my mouth into a crescent. I decided against telling her off for grabbing my hand like I was five years old because I figured, from her laugh anyway, she was just excited to share the experience with me; little old me, who just wanted a blanket and a bed.

An American bed.

I immediately secured my spot next to the glass on the outside edge of the pod, resting my wrists on the rails to hold my phone steady as I began snapping pictures while we got higher and higher into the sky.

Then my mind did its thing.

We did this. People did this. We made the buildings that I was photographing with the phone that people made; inside of a huge wheel that people also made, looking down over a city that is centuries in the making. Who was I to say this wasn’t worth $75? If $75 is all it took to see the brick and mortar us, humans, people, crafted into beauty, who was I to not jump on this slowly-spinning collection of steel and glass every day for the rest of my life? Money is just money. More of it is printed every day. London Eyes are not made every day.

I am but a person on this Earth, a drop in the bucket, a thread on the gigantic quilt of the world, whatever you want to call it, but I got the chance to appreciate what other people like me have done. I may not be remembered as one person one hundred years from now, but neither did each person who made the Eye of London, or each person that made the city of London, or even each person that made the airplane I took to the Heathrow Airport, but I can still be appreciated. The people who did this can still be appreciated, just as a collective whole. We can’t inscribe every name of every man woman and child who walked every street of every city in every country and tell those people individually that “we thank you for your efforts.” But we can take five minutes (or, in this case, and hour) of our so busy lives to think about what they’ve done and how it affects us today. If people were so insignificant, how did this come to be? How did all of this happen if we are nothing?

It couldn’t.

I kept that in mind as I scrambled off the London Eye, still wanting that ice-cream cone. That another person made.

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