London, I love you in all your madness and loudness and wetness and wonder. I love your mad hatter streets, which refuse to run parallel and let their names slip away through misty fog fingers. I love the peculiar sort of glow the West End gets at night when it’s raining and the lights from a premiere are glowing all over the wet sidewalks and the umbrellas of the people walking by; it’s one of the only times I don’t curse the rain and the damp and the cold, because in those moments the rain and damp and cold are magic unique to you. London, I love your half-rotten smell, a smell which is only exacerbated by the damp and which the wind can never quite dispel. I love your dirty streets, in a sort of my god how do they live like this way which my friends from bigger cities find baffling. I love your noise, even at two in the morning when the air suddenly becomes stuffed to bursting with sirens which stab into my sleep. London, I love that you think honking makes people drive faster. I hate that you don’t stop for pedestrians (really, this is a problem- I saw a man stick out his umbrella at one of your delivery drivers and shout, “Pedestrian!” and watched as the delivery driver reacted by speeding up and nearly running me, innocent little Texan me, over) but I love that you have no concept of space, especially not between your cars, and that the madness of the street is quadrupled, quintupled, multiplied tenfold when there are people and buses and cars and bicycles and rickshaws filling them, utterly bloating the walkways and roads with their madcap desire to get where they’re going and to hell with the rest of you.

London, I love that rush of air which accompanies an approaching train on the Underground, that cool exhalation which is a reassuring sigh of relief and a gentle hand on the forehead whispering, “You’ll make it in time.” I hate being squeezed into those cars with the rest of the city but I love the feeling of bursting forth onto the sidewalks after a cramped and crowded and stifling tube ride. Every turn around your corners is an introduction into a new world. I love that in Regent’s Park, which is in some areas a stone’s throw away from the highly-trafficked Euston Road, there are still swans and pelicans and egrets, of all things, perched delicately on spindle legs and poking at the water with their chopstick beaks. I love that they can exist here as well as we can, we of all our various nationalities and backgrounds and life stories and hurts. We who came to this city for God knows how many reasons and found you different and wild and perfect and terrible and awesome in our own particular ways.

London, I love your pubs and their good English beer which leaves thick white foam markers of each sip down the sides of their glasses. Your pubs smell, more often than not, of beer and fried things and that peculiar dankness which I have encountered nowhere else. I love the barkeeps, even the jerks who instantly treated me like a moron for ordering in an American accent (I’m sorry, barkeeps, for not pronouncing it “Doom Bahhh”) or asking for a screwdriver instead of a vodka orange. I love your restaurants, London. I hate your curry but I love that it can be had, it and Thai food, and Japanese, and Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, French, any kind of cuisine I could want except Tex-Mex, although not for lack of trying (though, on that note, please stop trying). I love your Saturday markets and your Sunday roasts, your pigeons pecking at stale bread on the sidewalks and your madmen talking to squirrels in the parks. I love your runners and your smokers and your panhandlers and your crazy people on the tube.

London, I love you for being at once so welcoming and so, so oddly impenetrable. I look forward to the day when I can bring my children here and show them where I went to school, where I cemented my love for all things old and musty and written-on. London, I love you for the friends you’ve given me, the adventures you’ve taken me on, the ways in which my eyes have been opened and seen beyond the small scope that was my Texas life. You’ve made my soul feel bigger and brighter; it fills up my chest and makes my back straighter and my eyes more open and my lungs take deeper breaths and I love you for that, London. I love you for the touch of your insanity which you have slipped into my skin, surreptitiously in the night. I didn’t even realize it was there until a few nights ago when I laughed at the rain and looked up at the sky that never really darkens and felt, deeply, truly, that I love you. Thank you for making me love you, London. I needed to be shown that I could.