Sunday, December 15

All That

TO GO HOME and live like a king with central heating and good food and the wind of the sea and, above all, like a shining god, my family. But then I was in a bar, drinking away a tough week, a tougher Friday. When I got to the station—a station I seldom entered since I’d moved—it was drunk. The station was drunk as though it had just blown its wages on shots and cheap coke. In the ticket office, two recently-arrived holiday-makers, young, keen-eyed, fixed up with tagged bags and the soup of interest, glared around themselves at the parade that was passing our way. I must smile to myself; afore us two burping girls were dressed terribly with all their weight spilling out, talking kindly and lovingly to the lady behind the till; they thanked her profusely and hurried off, smiling loveable. I must smile to myself. There is no country like this one, nor would I swap it for another.
On the train.
It is no longer my train.
It was once.
Once upon a time, for seven years, it was my train; moving through the night like a comet, straddled by loners and whimsies; the toilet clogged with smoke and no alarm; piss-heads on one more blowout, all good-spirits whistling like rockets. I climb aboard. All this familiar furniture. I don’t know what to make of it. I fall asleep because I am exhausted and a little drunk. When I awake, I regain myself. There is the supermarket, the long fence, the containers, the abandoned quay where all the boats now lie, silent juggernauts, too bloated to sway. Have I ever been away? It does not feel like it. If I concentrate enough I could remember that I no longer lived near there. The regular scenes passed me by. Suddenly I was awash with the inspiration that had always caught me on its muddy barbed-wire fence. I was happy, I suppose, and serene.
‘One of the cabbies asked your dad where you were and how you were the other day.’
‘He did? … which one?’
‘Oh, I dunno.’
‘I’m flattered anyone in this town remembers me.’

The cabs were sitting there with their engines off. Their bonnets shone. Not another soul did I encounter on my walk back. The odd car passed but always above it a little light shone. Where was my London? Pull down the cab window; let me address the interior.
When I got to my parents’ home the house was all in darkness. I went in. It was warm. I ate a couple of frozen sausage rolls and poured myself a bowl of cereal; in the empty black conservatory, with the places all laid out, I ate alone. A part of me felt as though I hadn’t been away, yet how different I felt! how much older and alone and excavated! Sadness? I did not know. It was all I could do to not feel erased. The guestroom that had been next to my room, always so empty and second choice for visitors, was now my quarter. In the room was arranged a variety of things I should take back to my flat, put their by my mother when she was awake, but now she was asleep so that I could not go say hello, bump cheeks, ask how her how she was doing, take out on loan, for just a moment, the half sleepy half haggard exchange of love. I got into the spare bed and when I spied the curtain I knew that in the morning the light would come down on to my eyes and wake me up.

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