When someone says to their parents, “You guys want to pay for a trip to England for me, don’t you?” and they say yes, then a certain amount of worry comes to that person immediately preceding the flight out of the country. Will I like England? Will I learn anything? Will I enjoy all the places I saw on TV? Will the British hate me? Am I going to hate it and blow several thousand euros (well, pounds when I exchange it) my parents spent on me for a favor I was joking with them about and feel incredibly guilty when they ask how it was and I’m forced to say, “I hated it” and “Great Britain is overrated” and then feel terrible the rest of the summer and and…?
And thankfully, that isn’t the case for most people when they go on vacation. Probably just me. While waiting in the terminal for my flight (or our flight, rather, as there were 23 people on the trip), it certainly was unnerving to hear a group of strangers talking about how much the trip was going to cost them and the kind of debt they would be in. Certainly too, hearing, “I’ll cut you” while jesting with a young woman who introduced herself as Liz did nothing to make me feel more at ease.
If I had known at the time that Liz was an inexplicable paradox, I wouldn’t have been so baffled at her nonchalant threat to cut me, nor at her comment that it was “fate” that we sat next to each other on the plane. At least John, one of the three other men on the trip, wasn’t too alarming. That is, until he began acting like our dad. But I digress. I believe I had brought up waiting in the terminal for the plane. The terminal, right. Both the one in Chicago and London were a mess of people, luggage, and unintelligible intercom announcements that always made me think, “What was that? Did they just say something about our flight? Have we been delayed?” As it happened, the flight was delayed slightly, but as far as I know, there was no announcement. As for the flight itself, as much as I love the feeling of accelerating to 90,000 miles an hour in a few seconds, the plane ride soon lost its novelty after about 10 minutes. Being 6’7” tall, I was scrunched up into the seat like a giant spring, bent into the shape of a pretzel, and then bottled up under pressure. After seven hours on the plane, I was ready to explode.
I did talk to the strange Liz creature some on the plane ride and bus ride afterwards. It was certainly a relief at least from the long, arduous sitting. Never before have I found sitting to be so exhausting. I cannot describe the sheer pain from sitting so long that I felt in my—well, all over, really. Aches, coupled with a lack of sleep, being in a different country, and a general worry that I would not enjoy myself led to a great relief when we finally climbed off the bus. Then we saw “it.” Harlowton manor. I put it in quotes because there is no pronoun, or any word for that matter, that sufficiently suits Harlowton. “It” is like a palace out of some absurd fantasy novel. It reminds me of the Tower of Babel: some giant building reaching for a great pinnacle it can never achieve. It looms in the distance as you approach, never seeming to get closer, like some floating citadel in the clouds. But at the same time, it’s completely absurd. Once you are standing in front of it, you cannot see the full enormity of it without looking around in a 180-degree angle. Then, should you walk a few dozen yards back, it’s gone again and once more becomes that floating palace in the sky. “It” is a fleeting manor—you can neither understand it with a photograph alone, nor can you lock it into memory, for your brain refuses to acknowledge the impossibility of “it.”
Physically, it’s a tan colored building, decorated with a juxtaposition of curves and straight edges and pointed, round towers in various locations. In front, there are two main gates and each is the size of a small house. Looking at the manor draws you into an almost mystical trance that seems to make you forget everything,...
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