Nothing quite marks the passage of time like standing somewhere you’ve been before—years later.
That’s how I felt a few weeks ago, as I waited for a London-bound train at the Oxford Parkway railway station. I was standing beside my fiancé, wearing the ring he had given me five days earlier in our apartment in New York.
That day was the greatest—when he proposed after an episode of Jeopardy! (during the James Holzhauer era)—but this one wasn’t so bad either. We were closing out a weekend at Soho Farmhouse, a sprawling 100-acre property on the English countryside, which, despite having opened in 2015, managed to exude the worn-in comfort of a place with history.
We spent three days eating, watching movies, and naming cows. We napped in a courtyard next to a fireplace and drank Old Fashioneds. We talked about our dream wedding. Big or small? Indoors or outdoors? Band or DJ? The conversations brought us closer, even if we didn’t always agree. Because for the first time, we were creating an experience wholly ours: one part him, one part me. It forced me to think about the future, building a life with intention, and inviting someone else in to share it with me.
Like I said, nothing quite marks the passage of time.
I remember the last time I stood at this station. It was for a solo day trip to London near the end of my year in graduate school. I was carrying a book on the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and I was reworking an essay in my head. That’s where I’d mostly lived for a year—in my head—as I dissected movie scenes, made arguments, and turned them into papers. When I wasn’t in class or writing, I was exploring. It was a time when I flaunted my independent streak and penchant for living in the present.
Bringing my fiancé back here meant grappling with two versions of myself. He liked me for my independence, for the way I thought, and for how I didn’t like to plan much. But, could I be all those things and a good partner?
I decided that, together with him, we could do both. We could be spontaneous and manage a Google calendar. We could talk big ideas and make to-do lists.
When we boarded the train, I took the window seat, comforted by the familiar scene of pastures and memories of solo trips into the city without a plan. Sometimes, back then, I would go see a play or visit a museum. Other times, I would just wander.
And one time, I sat down for dinner with a close friend at a Mexican restaurant in Notting Hill. Little did I know that a year later, he would ask me on a date, and two years after that, we would be back here, making the trip from Oxford to London, committed to spending forever together.