London Diary (5)

As the tube train rumbled into the platform he stood up.

While waiting for the trains, he liked squatting down. Often it gave his legs a rest from the many miles that he did, pounding the unforgiving streets of the city. His trainers were worn out, after all, they were a cheap pair that he bought in some discount shoe shop a while back. Still, they came in handy for running, when the need arose, which was unfortunately for him, becoming a more frequent occurrence. The vantage point from a squatting gave him an unusual view of the tiling that adorned the tube station and he also got to see up the nostrils of his fellow passengers, also waiting on the platform.

The doors hissed open and there was that usual embarrassed semi-scrum that always accompanied the ritual of embarkation onto and disembarkation off a tube carriage. It was the proper thing to let passengers off first, but there was always that worry that the driver might be in a temper and shut the doors on you, so leaving you behind on the platform, stranded underneath the streets of London. Of course, this had never happened to any of the passengers on the platform. But the mere fear of having to wait three minutes until the next train was too much to bear and so as the last of the passengers were trying to alight, the crowd surged on. He joined them too, riding the wave, almost euphoric, of getting one step closer to a destination.

And what was that destination? The doors gave their warning before slamming shut and as the train slowly rumbled out of the platform, he began to think of where he was going. Life had not turned out all happy go-lucky. Those rosy-tinted days of looking forward to a future had given way to something more realistic – ‘life’. For all the optimism that he should have felt, he in fact felt very lonely, despite the fact that his carriage was as crowded as ever. Standing, crushed against the plastic-enamel interior of the carriage, he may have shared the same thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears as his fellow passengers, as well as the same final destination, both literal and metaphorical. But of course, this is London, and while the whole train may have felt the same, for him, it felt that he was the only one that was experiencing it so vividly, with his heart racing away, as drip by drip, one second at a time, life itself slipped from his grasp.

The doors opened and he got off. He rushed towards the escalators, but for once, decided not to climb up and instead held onto the handrail and watched a few others overtake him on the left. The breeze from above ground hit him in the face, his nostrils picking up the scent of fried chicken and exhaust fumes wafting down the shaft from the street above. On reaching the concourse, he tapped his oyster and headed outside. It was a chilly night, and as he felt the sharp whip of the wind, he drew his collar close towards him. He still had a long way to go until he reached his ‘destination’…

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