Saturday, September 13

All That Matters is the New Route

IN AN EFFORT to exercise more I have been getting off of my morning train a stop earlier and walking the extra distance to the office. In the evenings I do the same. Overall, I suspect this gives me an extra mile and a half of walking a day. It is recently I notice that the heel on my left shoe is worn away, causing me terrible concern as I do not wish to damage the shoe permanently, because they were expensive and bought during a shopping trip with my mother, thus endowing them with more nostalgic value than I care to admit. The damage is on the outer rim of my left shoe’s heel.
These days I alight at Aldgate East.
You do not know about Aldgate East but its walls are yellow, as though a torch were shone down some unmade bowel. It lies where the Hammersmith & City and District lines kiss before rushing hand in hand out to the east of the capital. There they are in pink and green. They kiss and dash.
Slowly I become familiar with my new route. ‘This is doing me good,’ I think, though it rids me of reading time that I must make up in the evenings. I swagger down the platform at Aldgate East and up and around and TO STREET and out on to the street from the stairs. It is there that the late summer sun, straining to get up in the morning, catches me square in the face from its beautiful perch in the open bliss of rush hour. There is a great mix of the poor and the rich, young and old, it’s all activity of Londoners (not the home county commuters reaching in but real born-around-the-corner Londoners and the city itself singing a birthing hymn). Businessmen, shop clerks, schoolchildren stammer and stop before a red man, take careful looks and there they go in front of me. I turn and rush. I throw my gum into a bin. On the floor is an infinitude of stains that no one except the perpetrator can name; they run down from a wall and, like ‘to the sea’, head for the road, the gutter, the lane where the buses honk. At the roundabout a big advertising board is illuminated; red white green bright.
(The road is so that in the evenings the sun has gone its full width and is at the opposite end, putting its angle on another side of your face. Everything that was in light is in dark and all that was in shade is now displayed. This is the exchange. I am slapped on the back of the head; my skull is thick enough to withstand it.)
Then all I smell is piss. In these abandoned buildings are many sad stories, and I can see – through that beat-up hole there – how the sad stories get inside, away from the dew that comes down at night. In the crack where blooming daylight lands are scattered newspapers and thick odours that reach for the back of your throat. All of the people walk past and do not see it but they smell it and pay no attention. They are all just pages of a book.
This walk to work is far more interesting.
The gas men are tearing up the road and NO SMOKING so I have to wait until I am on dozing Middlesex St before I light up. I have more time to think, if not to read, and my thoughts are bad ones that are sad ones and I am not sure what is going on in my life sometimes. Eventually the city puckers open and is grey shining light sheets of green. All I am surrounded by is people I do not recognise. Determinedly I put my feet to the ground. Onwards.
A café has large font on the window advertising TEA COFFEE SALT BEEF. How good must the salt beef be?
In my effort to walk more, I have carved my name on another part of the city. Each of these people mean nothing to me and I nothing to them. It is all exciting, this new route. I am not bored of it. What’s more: the lung fresh scent of September is charging me with all the newness of an autumn school term, that first one back. Now in my nostrils appear the day’s signature I remember from youth when I would turn up to secondary school early. All that’s missing is the sparkle of grass as it spreads out before you like an eager lover.
I can still taste orange juice on my tongue. It was good orange juice because – everything needs an excuse in a 13-million people city – it woke me up.

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