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.