Train to Ladywell

What crossroad am I approaching? London Bridge towards the National Rail Southeastern train surely. 

Are my considerations haunting me? I can hear foolish gossip. 

The wick on a wax candle burns until its finale. Am I at my wicks end– setting fire to the paper airplanes circling Westminster?

Another train passes by. 

“This one yours?” asked the middle-aged conductor.

“No,” I said eyeing the face of my watch. “10:31 PM to Ladywell.” 

The humming iron railways of the tube vibrate what delicate material is left between my ears. A Frenchman and his family depart for what seems like an extended holiday. They have suitcases and sun hutswith shades. I wonder if they’re going to Dover Beach. I haven’t been there since I was little–haven’t been anywhere but a cubicle since I left university. I wonder if it was worth it. Maybe corporate was a misstep. Numbers, paper, and white spaces will be at my demise. A tea cup party for all the miseries that my work smog brings.    

​I missed out on life’s focal moments. 

​A birthday here and there, the last few holidays.

​Broke mother’s heart when father died– broke all of our hearts. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t be there. I didn’t try hard enough to be there. But no matter, father would have wanted me to travel onward. A man’s responsibility. Nevertheless it was the exact contrary of what I was doing. 

​I quit my employment. May have said a small number of cruel things in the process, but it felt moral– that was until my bank balance went red. I’ve been living off biscuits and tea since. The Blue Lady wants me out by the weekend. I’ve nowhere to stay. I’ll be displaced. 

​Another train passes by.

​“Hey vister?” a heavy accented woman interrupted. “You vill be late.”

​“No,” I said eyeing the face of my watch. “10:31 PM to Ladywell.”

​“She departs—”

​In leisurely time, I stroll around the plush gardens like a habitual squirrel. What was originally a causal appreciation of London’s magnificent cityscapes and unnerving settlers, hastily mutated into a scavenger hunt for eating– after all, a bloke has to survive somehow. That’s when mother started facilitating. A few pounds whenever she could. A full stomach meant more than being ashamed.

A bouquet of lilies wither away in my grasp, they’re meant for father’s grave in Brockley and Ladywell. Almost got clubbed by the Bobbies for ripping them from the earth at Kensington. If he could see me now. 

​Another train passes by.

​“A wee bit late, ay?” asked a Scottish pop.

​“Bullocks!” I took off with my messenger bag flapping the side of my thigh. The train’s doors were nearly sealed. A Chinese man was luckily enough to see my despaired as he wedged his size five into the door jam. ”Thanks mate,” I said kindly seating myself.  

​The soles of my oxfords are leaking rapidly with the murky rain water. I have two wet socks. I suppose it’s better than being barefoot like a peace protestor in the sixties.

New Cross

​“Oi!” a dodgy punter shouted. “What’re you playing at?”

​It took me a minute to understand why this shifty character was screaming at me. I guess the seat I was settled in was his,and the blond character sitting to my right was his “girl”. To be frank, she looked like everyone’s “girl”, but rather than land a black eye, I walked towards a seat elsewhere. 

​“Nice, right?” said the voice of my adjacent neighbor with a wink of her eye and before I knew it, we were laughing together. 

​“Who are those for?” she asked looking at the flowers in my hands. 

​“These? Oh, a grave,” I said putting a nail in the coffin of our happiness. Her face turned. “He was a funny man.”

​“Was he?” she asked pulling the brunette curls from her face. 

​“Could make you have a fit and wet yourself,” I said. “A real knack for humor. 

​“How long has he–”

​“Been dead?” I interjected, “Almost a year.”

​“Still fresh?”

​“Oh, nahh,” I lied. 

​​

St. Johns

​“Tell me one of his anecdotes?” she requested. A poetry book was resting on her lap. The spine read, Romantic Poetry to Sooth the Soul and Safe You from Grief. I laughed a little on the inside. 

​“Uhm, he has this joke he told all the time,” I said searching for the right choice. “He has this one where he describes the Royals. I dunno if you’ve noticed, but their teeth– like a horses– more so than other Brits.”

​“Mhm,” her way of signaling that she was still listening. 

“He makes this face and imagines eating an apple through a picket fence. He’s American born, so his version of a British Accent is pretty terrible.”

​“Oh yes,” she said laughing. “They do have abnormally larger teeth, I’ve noticed that myself as well. What does the face look like?”

​“You sure?” I laughed. “I may scare you away.”

​“Try me.”

​“Alright– if you say so. ‘Ello’ Govena’,’” I said in a proper accent, like Dick Van Dyke. “Fancy a up’ of tea?” My lips moved back to revealing my front teeth. 

Lewisham

​We shared laughter together and both of our faces turned as bright as beets. 

​“Well done,” she said. “My names Emma.”

​“I’m Peter,” I said kindly. “Where’re you headed?”

​“Away,” she said.

​“From where?” I pressed. 

​“Here.”

​“I see.”

​“Do you want to join?” she asked. “And journey into the unknown.”

​My face searched for a sarcastic smile, but there wasn’t one to offer. “You’re serious?”

​“Why not?” Emma said. “Unless you don’t want to.”

​That was quite the opposite of what I wanted. Something new and exciting to rescue you me from old and mundane. Father’s grave wasn’t going anywhere. He would have desired me to be spontaneous and adventure.

​“I don’t have any plans.”

​“Perfecto,” Emma said. “Next stop? Hope a different rail?”  

Ladywell

​A bit hesitant that this was really happening, I agreed. We exited the train on to station’s landing. Emma and I found the train diagram and she sealed her eyes and aimed with her small index finger landing on Dover.

​“Dover it is,” Emma fastened her bag. 

​“I haven’t any money,” I admitted. 

​“Neither do I,” Emma grinned. “Who pays for the tube?”

​“Civilized human beings.”

​“Who said I was civilized?” Emma said. “You’re a runaway, just like me aren’t you?”

​I didn’t want to admit it at this time, but she was dead-on. I had nothing to my name other than the clothes on my back and the lint in my pockets. My likelihood of existence was wiry and would be much more electrifying in the company of another. And Emma’s impulsive trait may be pleasant in the unforeseen future.  

​“A little lost,” I admitted.

​“Let’s go find you then,” Emma said. “I’m good at scavenger hunts.”

​So much for a burnt candle sticks.

​And that book of Poetry. 

​I set father’s lilies down and proceed towards my future.  

​  

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