Wednesday, November 20

Fixture

I DON’T KNOW WHY I moved to this city. I have always loved it—not a he or she, but an it, a shimmering sexless phantom biting down on a thick river—and suppose that I was always drawn to move here; too terrified of my hometown to stomach it any longer.
When I had gone down all of the quiet steps, gases rising up from the tunnels, I took the train down south of the blue line. Around the chapped lips of the Thames, I leapt out across the eighties pavements.
With a swollen jaw, I am tempted to cruise my eyes across the people who ignore the cafĂ©. An eastern European girl in uniform white top, clinging to her after an all-day stretch, apologised, barked at her colleagues, then took my order. I just ordered a cappuccino—despite the time. ‘Sugar’s over there.’ All these hunters who glide by me, do they glide by me? They were attractive in their mingle. Southwark, London, Tower; bridges, locked where they climb and all done up in different coloured lamps. I accidentally threw my change into the bin. I cursed my luck, for I was very poor—that was my last three-quid!—and went over to Holborn, where my parents, their yearly trip half done, were stayed.
I was drinking but not he. The twelve disciples had written a book about how to occupy bars and not drink, though I had never read it. Some people need booze to shine; I need booze to whine, and to confide. The furniture in there was a rackety affair; I was sure that mine would collapse at any moment.
It is not this city that comforts me.
There is the greengrocer’s I keep meaning to go to, all lit up at night from the doorway and the suspicious hound who stands outside, keeping his peep peep on the produce. I’ll get me some bananas and red apples and lady’s fingers for a curry. When I am drunk, I strut through the streets fearless and fearful all at once. The terror towers up around me so that I must not twist my ankle. The bus driver stares at me with the whites of her eyes and hurries me across the road. I smile and thank her. God, the movement! all this movement for one to grow up in.
As the night wears on, we talk more candidly because I am more assured to ask questions. By the end of it, I am in life and in love because I am so happy. Why should I feel so happy? How long will it last? He considers his ultimatum. A gang of youths are so kind to us that it almost makes me sob. What has happened to me? When will this city harden me up? I must get calluses on my lungs, since I lost them on my fingers. We, and the gang, trickle on the light, and it is Wednesday night; all of the t.v. sets around the world are saluting us; satellites turn their heads; flowers are willing to jump for joy. I am so happy I could buy a box of cereal and a pint of milk and satisfy my hunger alone in my flat, staring at the wall and feeling the milk run down my chin.
So what if she no longer reads this?
I get on the tube with people and try to imagine their lives. It is a silly, romantic pastime. No-one thanks me for it. I stare at the old women and imagine my Nan. With my swollen jaw I am more inclined to look out of the window and the barely-lit cables knitting alongside us. And then we break out into day, and it is not two milliseconds before I look up and see that the sky—why hadn’t I noticed this before?—is blue as summer seas and cloudless, that the roof-tiles are barcode’d in shade and I have work to attend to where I try not to become dull.
Every time, day or night, I remember where I am, I feel a tickle of joy. For seven years my train passed this flat and I loved it from afar and now I live here and, though I have forgotten what it looks like to pass, I am glad and grateful. The winter will not last long. It will recede, like tides and hair and joy and sad times. Spring will come. Someone will happen.

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