London is beautiful at Christmas.
There’s an extra quality to the buildings, a fine glaze of history. London is a place where you look at what things are, but you fall in love when you see what they were: and that they lasted.
The Christmas of the London Olympic year, 2012 was dazzling and bustling. There’s something noble about how once a year we decide to invest in sparkle and lights that somewhere like Times Square wouldn’t even blink twice at.
Rarity makes certain things in life an event.
There was a conference centre somewhere in Coin Street where I was supposed to be graduating from the work related qualification I had been studying for all year in my job at the time. I was on a Tube train, and we’d had to get to Coin Street from Knightsbridge. I remember Knightsbridge because in 2012 The Disney Corporation and designers like Valentino collaborated with Harrods’ Department store on a window display, each window framing a mannequin dressed as a Disney Princess.
I was running around London, at Christmas in a manic phase of bipolar, free associating every image I saw. On every train I believed I was amongst angels in human form. There was a collective energy about them, a balletic shielding corona around me. I felt as if there was some grand mystery to solve and that London was the chessboard for it.
If only I could solve this mystery, I would be initiated and understand the nature of the strange experiences that happened to me two years earlier. My first episode was spiritual in a way that was not always pleasant. I often thought of veils that shouldn’t have been lifted, doors of consciousness that ought not to have been opened.
One angel was a woman reading a book on the Mycenae. The most famous Mycenaean I had ever heard of was the legendary Helen of Troy. If she was from that tribe she would have customarily braided her hair with coloured yarn and other small trinkets and painted her face white and lined her eyes with kohl. Helen of Troy would have thus, been capable of mesmerising any number of Greeks, let alone a king.
I remember praying under my breath for their protection from being gifted such fierce beauty. I remember pacing the car, overwhelmed. I reached out my hand desperately. Then, there was a moment of perfect poise and silence. For a while from perhaps a standing height, (but with their face obscured to me) another hand took mine. And the whirling stopped, the fear went away.
I remembered that I lived on this plane.
A complete stranger, who may have been wearing a red puffer- jacket, had taken my hand. And I remembered what was real and what was not. Because in the mania of bipolar, the world is in flux and it has no logic. Bipolar knows everything that only you are afraid of, and then it amps up the death-stakes until you are so exhausted that you need a year to recover.
The hand was male, white, medium sized for a man, not lined or spotted, nor hirsute and not particularly what I would deem beautiful. (I am a passionate fetishist of men with Michelangelo hands.) Holding hands was a very small act, which in that moment anchored my sanity and proved that I was not okay.
By the end of the night I was curled up on the floor of a cloakroom at the venue, marked STAFF ONLY in floods of tears, begging people not to tell my mother. The events got worse before they got better. The following year I was formally diagnosed with bipolar.
But that angel on a train was an event. If I knew who he was I would thank him from the bottom of my heart. I’m still fighting my fight but it was so good connect, because it proved I was not altogether beyond hope.