Friday, August 1

Stall

IF YOU ASKED him – and he had had a couple of whiskies – my father might likely say he wished for more from me. He wouldn’t ever tell me so to my face, and it is less likely he would tell you, a stranger, but that is what I think; however, I think of it often and it is under my skin so that I cannot ever forget it. I had meant to be an engineer of sorts but was confronted by a piece of software one day that I could not – for the life of me – get around. Two months into my probation period, upon my boss’ return from holiday, I was dismissed that very afternoon and never saw any of those people again, though I had befriended a few of them. I still think of my former colleagues working away and that office life and how cool the air was in there. Fortunately my mother had a friend who needed help in a stall, so I took the position gladly as money was low and pang-panging my head and my thoughts at all hours of the day. It is a terrible thing to need something so much that it is all you think of in bed at night when you are beside your wife because your hands aren’t animated and everything is warped, ugly.
The stall is inside the tube station but is a very busy tube station. Rowdily the crowds pass my stall all day and all night until the station closes at a quarter past twelve. Then it is as though the whole circus is crumbled, the main pole pulled, and nothing is alive anymore that was alive.
I stand there many hours of the day.
Behind me, in a location I have memorised by heart, is a stool that has plastic leather on but, there, the leather has worn away exposing yellow foam underneath that my fingers pick at. There is a board informing the customers when the next train will arrive but it is in front of my stall so I cannot see it. I only hear the train coming, an orgasm shaking in my legs and then up through my body; you should feel it, too. I sell a variety of goods that you would expect me to: chocolate bars that melt in the summer, gossip magazines, newspapers (including the free papers), gum, tobacco (more expensive than outside), every popular brand of fizzy drink, maps that are printed on thick, good quality paper, numerous postcards featuring members of the royal family all dressed in red or famous London landmarks, batteries, samosas, sandwiches, matches, and condoms, which I hand over with as little embarrassment as I am permitted to exhibit.
Next to me are three gas canisters, though I know not what they are for. There is an office next door, for the people who work in the underground. My father would have expected me to know what the gas canisters are for by now, but I don’t tell him about them and he is not disappointed.
I could not tell you how time passes because it is not pronounced as delicately down here as I would like. Sometimes what feels like an hour is only ten minutes, and yet a day seems to me to have only lasted a brief second with not a memory upon it. I watch the people move by me; that is my main occupation in that it occupies me and I enjoy it thoroughly as a horse enjoys galloping in its pen. When it is the holidays I see all of the families out and it makes me very happy so that I smile beyond being able to help it. If the children are facing me then I will try, through my eyes and my white teeth, to speak to them but I don’t have a face for children and they shrug their shoulders at me. In the summer all of the women wear little. I stand there and surreptitiously adore them but I would not like them to notice because then they would blush or become angry and I would be ashamed and they might cause a scene. I see the women and I think of my wife and how I would like to be with her at that very moment. I daydream that we are in bed and I am caressing my hands over her body that I know so well and the ruffles of her skin where she moans to the touch. I daydream of loving her with my body that is capable of loving and is still alive because I am stood here all day; but after I have worked all day and the tube is so hot, I arrive home exhausted. So it is to bed we go and no energy nor muscle is left in me. I lay them trembling with my thoughts and my day and do you see the way the light is glowing faint red swirls on the ceiling? I see it, my eyes do. Then the bright white swish comes along and tears it all asunder. It is all quiet.

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