Thursday, December 04, 2008

Inside my head

I found this on my computer this evening. I think it's from the summer, I vaguely remember writing it then. I think it was a blog post that got horribly out of control and was subsequently abandoned. As my babblings go it's not bad, although the voice switches about a bit, probably because I hadn't figured out what I was writing while I was writing it.

The incident boards were still up around the pedestrian crossing when I walked home today. ‘Fatal Accident’ written in black on yellow. They wanted information, but I knew that I had none to offer. Like thousands of other people, I passed by the crossing on Monday lunchtime and saw the tire marks leading to the stopped and empty truck; the police cars in planned formations; and the walking stick lying in the middle of the road. There was no blood, no gory details to gape at, it all seemed like a sterile tableau to me, as if arranged by an artist trying to make a social statement.

On the other side of the road I saw a smiling young woman, which lightened my mood. She looked happy, sitting near the big open windows at the front of the pub. I looked at her for perhaps longer than was really polite, but she didn’t notice, so I felt safe in my indiscretion. She was pretty, but in a slightly strange way. There was a quality to her face -- the slightly angular lines, the large dark irises of her eyes -- that seemed to me like an amateurish drawing of some great beauty. It was not that she wasn’t beautiful, just that there was a simplicity to her features that made me think that she’d come from the imagination of an enthusiastic draughtsman, rather than an artist. As I walked down Upper Street I composed this little descriptive phrase in my head, rearranged it, and smiled, momentarily pleased with my idea.

I turned my attention back to the street in front of me, and was preoccupied dodging the wayward metal spines of women’s umbrellas after that. protecting them against the rain which had now passed. The rain had been heavy while it lasted, and the street steamed; the damp cotton of my sweater was mingling with the sweat patches that I could feel on forming on my t-shirt already, making me shift my bag around uncomfortably. For once, my headphones weren’t in and I was listening intently to the sounds of the city, hoping to feel some poetic pleasure in the sensory experience. I didn’t. I was just struck by how quiet commuters are, they are all focused and tired, not interested in talk. I clutched the reassuring weight of my tatty backpack and weaved my way through the gradually thickening crowds as I approached the station.

Inside the floor was slick with water from the downpour, and neat brown swirls of liquefied dirt were covering the tiles. I dodged past the leaflets and free papers, not making eye contact, not even bothering to look aside far enough to connect the proffering hand with a person. The barriers passed me by in brief clatter of machinery, and my hands returned my travelcard to my wallet without me having to look down at what I was doing.

After walking cautiously down the escalator -- conscious of the long descent, and the hard edged steps glistening with water -- I found myself standing on the platform watching the train leaving without me. The train shot out of sight, and the suction flicked at my hair and clothes for a moment. My hands moved, unseen and unconscious into my backpack for my book, which was curved and warped by mistreatment and damp. As I brought it to my face I realised something: All the way from my office I had been moving, with ears unblocked and eyes raised, and I had felt no more a part of my environment as I did when I walked through the crowds with music loud and eyes on my feet.

I remembered when I was younger; reading about the King’s cross fire, about all those men who died because a fire wasn’t part of their routine. When faced with a station worker blocking the escalators they just ducked past, without breaking their stride, and walked purposefully into the suffocating smoke. When I started working in the city I deliberately took different routes, different lines through each space; I was determined to not get automated like that. It clearly hadn’t worked; familiarity had made me move more swiftly and unthinkingly through stations with each month, entirely detached from the whole process. One day, I thought, I’ll probably squeeze onto a train with a twitchy man with a big bag, smelling of cordite, because I don’t want to miss my train. But for now I seem to be getting away with it, I decide. I’m willing to trust in whatever part of my subconscious is controlling me on my way home. I step onto the train and start reading my book.