cheesy railway chase

Confidence Man — Don’t you Know I’m In a Band

My trainers are slipping from my feet, they rub against my ankles and my heels slam into the soles. It hurts but I don’t care, I need to run faster. The train leaves in six minutes.

I take the escalator two steps at a time but get stuck behind a small woman, she is wearing black leggings and the material is stretched thin around her buttocks. She is intolerably slow; one step at a time, one step at a time; I mumble ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ as I push her onto the right hand side in between a teenage boy and an old man. Her winter coat is spongy and plasticky, I wonder why she is wearing such a warm jacket when she can barely be bothered to cover her bottom half. She yells out in shock or anger but I’m gone, two steps at a time, two steps at a time.

There’s a queue at the barriers. I push to the front, I feel like shouting ‘outtathaway, I’m in love!’ like some cheesy American movie but I don’t. A thin man with a suit and trainers practically gasps when I push in front of him and slam my card onto the touchpad. The barriers open and I’m GONE

The sign tells me to take a right but I’ve been here before so I know it’s faster to take a left. I take the stairs three at a time and jump out of the way of an elderly couple at the top – what a stupid fucking place to stand – turn the corner and burst onto the street. A taxi driver is smoking and we make eye contact briefly. He looks familiar.

I’m running at full pace now, the red brick walls of the station are a blur on my left, nobody comes this way so I don’t have to avoid the pedestrian cattle. My feet THUD THUD THUD onto the pavement, the pain is more noticeable than ever and causes me to draw in a sharp breath through clenched teeth. I pump my arms for momentum and feel like I might take off.

My chest hurts. My lungs feel small and tight and my throat is filled with cold air that whips my eyes and it’s like they’re taking an ice bath, they start streaming. After a few metres I round the corner and the wind stops blowing into my face and my eyes feel better but I feel more out of breath than ever. A stitch in my stomach stabs me in the side when I slow down as I reach the entrance.

King’s Cross is like a mouth, sucking in Londoners and tourists, chewing them up and swallowing them down different digestive tracKts (get it?), I know she’s on platform 11 but I don’t know how to get to it. I stop running in the foyer. To my right are platforms 1-4 so platform 11 must be straight ahead. I look up at the clock – the train leaves in two minutes.

I briskjog through the station, weaving in and out of wheeled suitcases and groups of children (families, school trips, truants). It’s dead ahead – platform 11. She’s in coach K, seat 42.

I don’t have a ticket – obviously I don’t have a ticket – so I slam my card onto the touchpad. It bleeps three times, a red light blinks at me. I don’t have time for this so I hoist my arms onto both sides and, using every fucking muscle in my body, lift my legs up and over the barriers. I am seeing stars at this point. The guard’s eyes pop out of his skull on stalks and steam fizzes out of his ears as he gesticulates wildly in my direction. My feet make contact on the other side and I am running, hauling my weary bones with me, my legs now feel like wobbly matchsticks. One minute fifteen seconds left. I see her metres ahead of me, heading down the concourse to her carriage, the sight of that curly brown hair gives me the energy I need and I make my jelly legs solid again and run after her.

I shout her name. She stops and turns. The guard’s hand is on my shoulder.

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erasmus

Baywaves — Still In Bed

There’s a group of four not-quite-adults-not-quite-kids walking through the square. They are not dressed for the weather; three are wearing grey, black and dark blue jeans, one a long fit maxi dress. Their skin is pale and they are wearing sunglasses in March. Three had emerged from the nearby supermarket, one rejoined the others from the Tabac, and they appear to have purchased groceries rather than souvenirs. They are not fazed by the Mediterranean surroundings and they are walking with purpose; they know their surroundings well but are clearly unfamiliar with the temperate spring climate in Antibes.

Kamran smiles to himself – foreign exchange students for sure. He watches them as they walk towards the restaurant and approaches them, offering a table in his silky North African French accent. He makes eye contact with the tall blonde and tries to imply with his gaze that he would like to take her home and ravage her – she is shy and avoids his gaze. A short man with glasses replies in broken French that they are not eating tonight, and leads the group forwards. They walk past and he stays in place, watching the figure of the blonde, her buttocks fill the dress she is wearing and her hips flare with every step. She turns and they make eye contact and he licks his lips.

The group eventually pass out of Kamran’s view, down a side street behind the bus station. The beautiful marble tiles are replaced with cobbles and graffiti, instead of designer shops there is a hole in the wall that sells kebabs and Iced Tea. They huddle outside a small green door on the left as the short man fumbles with his keys. The two women feel uncomfortable under the leer of an overweight African man, emptying a large plastic bucket of foul smelling liquid into the gutter. The other member of the group withdraws the cigarettes he purchased in the Tabac and lights one. The bucket man goes about his bucket business. Finally the door is open and the two women huddle in quickly behind the short man.

The corridor sucks in the dry heat from outside, its cold stone walls and tiled floors seem damp by contrast, and the cracks in the walls breathe out dust that is briefly illuminated in the light from outside. None of the group try and call the elevator behind the iron gate in the centre of the stairwell, they instead take the stairs, knowing that elevator has been out of service since the day they moved in. As the short man who is leading the group reaches the first floor, he hits a yellow plastic timer switch and the hallway is illuminated by a dank orange glow. The only sounds are their shoes slapping against the tiles and the wheezing breaths of the smoker, at the rear of the group and falling behind. They finally congregate outside a large brown door on the third floor as the short man once again fumbles for keys, giving the slow man time to catch up. The hallway light clicks off as the door clicks open.

tickets p[lease

Talking Heads — Mind (2005 Remastered Version)

rolling fields rolling away thickets of trees and chunks of shrub fly past I look down at the grey linoleum flecked with yellow spots there is a brown coffee stain pooling underneath the grey metal skeleton of the chair and the stuffing has burst through the red fabric I wonder how much further and risk a glance at my watch another two and a half hours at least I decide it is time and break open my tuna mayonnaise sandwich the bread is soggy and the granary seeds get stuck in my teeth leaving a stodgy paste on my gums I lick them clean and it doesn’t budge I screw my lips up like I’m kissing and it still doesn’t budge so I sip a glug of coca cola and swill it like listerine it tastes pretty gross when I swallow a kid opposite watches the whole thing and I stick my tongue out at him and he smiles through his eyes and I turn my head back to the window the sun picks through the trunks of the trees like a comb through knotty hair it flickers on my face and my pupils are small like pinpricks wide like drainholes small like pinpricks wide like drainholes I start to see spots I turn away and orange clouds fog into my peripheral vision so I scrunch my eyes shut and instead of black everything is light brown with smudges of greens and greys trying to burst through but I rub my eyes until they go and open them and the kid opposite is laughing at me so I wrinkle my nose and make a funny face again his mother is next to him and sees me and I feel my cheeks blush but she smiles at me and tells her kid to leave me alone thank god for that I smile back at her and she looks at me for slightly too long I bet she’s wondering how old I am probably thinks I should be in school well what does she know stupid old hag she can just fuck off what the fuck does she know the stupid fucking

I manage to swallow it down before it takes over. I take my hands off my head and slowly lift my head off of my knees. The woman is still there, she looks worried. My face is red and my eyes are pricked with tears. The train doors make that awful screech and I hurl myself up and get off the train.

 

vegas burgers

ShitKid — Oh Me I’m Never

They stopped to grab some burgers on their way to Vegas. The heatwaves rose off the car’s bonnet like steam, the yellow paint looked like it might melt and drip onto the tarmac. Joe unwrapped his burger, he did not notice the splat of mustard that dripped off the paper wrapping onto his jeans. He took a bite – the bread was firm on the outside and soft in the middle, the beef patties were thin with a grilled skin, the bacon was smooth and salty, the mustard and ketchup was sweet and sticky. He felt a sesame seed lodge in between his two front teeth.

As they walked across the parking lot Joe continued to eat his burger, and the mustard on his thigh was soon joined by a dribble of ketchup. Jean waited to eat hers. The thought of consuming greasy food in this heat made her throat feel even drier, and the warmth of the burger was oozing through its wrapping into her palm, making her skin clammy. She lost her appetite. She ran her free hand through her hair, dragging beads of sweat from her forehead with it, and when she put her arm back down she felt how wet her armpit was. They needed to get the car’s air conditioning fixed.

“Of all the places to stop at, why did we pick this fucking dive? I don’t even want this,” she stared at her burger, “all I wanted was a drink and some AC.”

Joe finished his burger and scrunched up the wrapper, rubbing it on his lips to wipe off the film of sauce and grease. He stuffed the used wrapper in his jeans pocket and took a sip of his coffee. Jean looked at him and exhaled over the back of her throat, making a disparaging noise. Joe carefully considered his words.

“I know. I’m so sweaty my shirt is now part of my skin.” It was true – the thin cotton was so damp it clung to his back. “Look – we’ve only got a few hours until we get there, and EVERYWHERE in Vegas has AC. And showers. And booze. Could you hold this for a second?” He held out the coffee he’d bought. Jean did not hold out a hand in return.

“I can’t believe you got a coffee.”

“Why? It’s what you are supposed to drink when it’s hot. It cools your body temperature down.”

They paused halfway across the parking lot as Jean took the cup. Joe reached into his pocket and took out the wrapper, walked across to a chipped green trashcan and threw it, the wrapper bounced off the rim onto the ground. He sighed, and as he bent down to pick it up, his damp shirt drooped and hugged him close, the wet fabric felt cold and uncomfortable on his back. He swallowed a gasp of discomfort, picked up the wrapper, reached out and placed it inside the mouth of the trash can.

One hundred and thirty two miles to go.

party

Frog — Photograph

I found her outside, alone, leaning against the wall and smoking a cigarette. The kitchen door shut behind me and I opened my mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the sound of a young girl vomiting. Her friend – Tanya? Tonya? Tara? – is hunched over on the floor, almost invisible beneath the window sill. The kitchen light illuminates the splatters of sick on the patio, and as Tanya-Tonya-Tara leans forward to hurl again, the light falls on her hair – black with red streaks – and she manages to direct her next spew into the flowerbed.

I ask if her friend is OK. She asks me what I think. We both laugh and she squats down to rub Tanya-Tonya-Tara’s back. A strand of hair falls down over her shoulder and dangles dangerously above a small puke-puddle. She stops rubbing Tanya-Tonya-Tara’s back to tuck it back behind her ears. She asks me if I’d mind getting some water from the kitchen, so I open the door, throwing some light onto the patio; Tanya-Tonya-Tara looks up at me, black eye shadow streaming down her face and purple-red lips coated in a fine film of frothy saliva. Her eyes are out of focus, she doesn’t seem to register my presence, and burps in my direction. I step into the kitchen and search the cupboards for a glass. First try, above the sink, just like mum. I am about to go back outside but pause by the fridge –

Tanya-Tonya-Tara cradles the glass with both hands and takes a sip. She slumps back against the wall and stares into the distance, her eyes closed. Finally we are alone. I offer a can of Fosters and she takes it. I open my own and for a second we say nothing, our silence threatens to drown out the music coming from the living room, she breaks it by asking if I want a cigarette. I clear my throat and nod. She takes them out of her jacket pocket and offers me the pack. I notice there is one hand-rolled cigarette floating against the tightly packed Marlboros and my fingers hesitate slightly. She senses the pause and asks if I want a joint instead. I hear myself saying ‘sure’ and the knot in my stomach tightens even more.

We walk down a small path towards the shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s been raining all week so the grass is damp and muddy, I take care not to scuff my trainers and hop between paving slab islands laid into the lawn, but she doesn’t care; she seems to miss the slabs on purpose. There’s a small bench next to the shed made of curved iron arms and cold, wet wooden slats. She sits down and puts the thin end of the joint between her lips. I sit down next to her, I can feel the wet wood soaking through my jeans. It makes me uncomfortable. She doesn’t seem to mind. The fat end of the cigarette puffs out a whisper of smoke as she lights it; the smoke is fragrant, floral, but also sticky and coarse. I watch intently how she inhales – a drag, a pause, her nostrils flare as she breathes in again – and she watches me watch her. My stomach is now churning with nerves. I wonder if it’s obvious it’s my first time.

cinema date

Young Again – Gents

The air smells of salt or sweet or butter or toffee popcorn. The corn is trapped behind an inch of plastic, when the attendant lifts the lid the scent escapes. He scoops some into a cardboard sleeve and hands it to her. She takes it in one hand and with the other picks a fluffy yellow piece from the top, smiling at me as I hand over five pounds. I smile back.

The sweets in my pocket crunch as we walk over to the attendant. I always get nervous about sneaking snacks in but I figure a fiver for some popcorn entitles me to bend the rules a bit. I hand over my ticket and the guard checks it, rips it and hands it back. He does the same for hers. The whole time he stares at his feet and doesn’t acknowledge us. I recognise his mousey hairdo, freckled cheeks and broad forehead; he is Matt Powell’s younger brother. On Tuesday Matt’s friends had thrown his rucksack onto the tracks as the train arrived, I remember his cheeks bursting scarlet from trying not to cry as he stood there and waited for our train to leave so that he could retrieve it. Everyone watched him through the windows. I respect his wish not to be acknowledged, he ushers us past the velvet rope towards the screens.

The doors are so heavy here. I am a gentleman so I have to open it for her, I fix my foot on the carpet and lean backwards to pull it open, I can’t use both hands, she’d laugh at me. As she walks past I smell her hair and my cheeks begin to flush. I enter behind her, it’s hard to see in the darkness so she reaches out for my hand. Our fingers find each other. I’m sure I can hear her heart beating.

We have an entire aisle to ourselves and our seats are right in the middle so we spread out either side, she takes off her bag first, followed by her scarf, then her jacket, and finally her jumper. I wonder how she will ever move all of her things if someone takes the seat next to us. The wrappers of the sweets in my pocket are louder than ever as I take them out, I move my arms slowly trying to muffle the noise, I’m convinced people in other rows are craning their necks to get a look at me, trying to sniff out the rulebreaker, they’ll hand me in to Matt Powell’s younger brother and he’ll get to throw me, a Year 11, out of the cinema, and in doing so win back some much needed street cred, maybe he’ll even get to ride off into the sunset with Tom Croft’s younger sister, meanwhile I’ll be the one crying on the platform, waiting to get my bag from the tracks.

After a while we are comfortable. We have retained our aisle but the trailers are yet to start and there’s no longer any background sound from the steady stream of arrivals, making it obvious that we are not speaking to each other. I can hear my cheeks go red and my mouth feels like cotton wool, I begin to wish I could withdraw the sweets again, just to drown out the silence. I build some words in my stomach but they can’t get past my throat, I look at her and she is looking at me, waiting for me to tell a joke, tell her she’s beautiful, make her smile and tell her I love her. I want to do all of it, but before I get the chance the adverts start.

hiding in the dark

Sexual Harrassment — I Need A Freak

Your chin hurts and your palm is red, the hairs of your beard have pricked the skin and left tiny dimples. The window is so close that you can see the reflection of your pupils. Outside, children are playing in the street, hiding behind cars and chasing each other through the cracks in the bumpers, dusky light helping camouflage them. There is a small boy that the others are ignoring who is desperately pursuing them, but his age and size prevent him keeping up, and as they disappear behind the net curtain only the boy is left. He loses sight of them and kicks a tyre of a burnt orange Cadillac.

Your eye stares back. It’s dark now and there are no street lamps on this road. Your reflection has a solid outline and it’s like looking in a mirror. Turn off the lamp, both sides in darkness.

Gradually lights in the houses opposite flick off to on to off again. It’s almost eleven PM and most of the neighbourhood are in their beds now, but you are still stuck at the window sill. Your elbow is numb from resting on the hard wood and your teeth feel tight from the pressure on your jaw. Your lips are dry and your throat is blocked, a roof-of-the-mouth-cough clears it. There is nobody on the street, when your neighbour opens their porch to light a cigarette you hear the click of the lock and the tchk of the lighter and the dry puff of their smoke.

At twenty past eleven you hear her car turn at the end of the road, and seconds later you see the beams of her headlights as she turns into your street. She drives slowly, respectful of the peace she is disturbing, and you duck behind the wall before she turns into the driveway. The room you are standing in is briefly illuminated. A chair, a fireplace, a tall bookshelf and a short table –

She is quick to turn off the headlights. Her neighbours are asleep. You wait in the darkness and your eyes gradually readjust. The bulky shadow of a sofa is within arm’s reach, it is large enough to hide you when she opens the door. You crouch down behind it. If she turns on the headlights she is sure to see you there but she doesn’t and you begin to feel yourself merge into the darkness. She is still in the drivers’ seat, her head against the steering wheel, not moving. After a minute passes the interior light of the car blinks off and you can no longer see her, but you sense she has not moved.

More minutes pass. You cannot explain how you know but you know that she has not moved. The dark living room becomes to shrink in size, the tension in the air begins to tickle the hairs on your arms, the thud thud thud in your chest becomes louder until your lungs begin to feel smaller and all the while you just know that she isn’t moving from her spot. Your mouth is dry, you lick your lips and swallow and the sound cuts through the darkness. You are an unwanted stranger in this house, this street, this night.