The Teacher is at book club. The fridge is empty. The plastic storage box we use to keep the ironing in is full of ironing. These things all involve my home life, but I haven’t switched that part on yet. I am still at the office.
Finally I leave, in a mad rush. My grandmother is arriving on Friday morning. The spare room needs to be prepared. We call it spare not because it is spare space but because spare things that have no place to go, go there.
I am going spare.
The trains are a nightmare. This is not unusual. When the weather turns, train companies seem to go into meltdown. The rain, the leaves, the cold, the shock of it wasn’t this dark yesterday morning.
Oxford Circus has closed its gates. As they do every evening. A lazy admission of failure; Oxford Circus cannot handle its passengers. Oxford Street; close your shops, the system isn’t working.
I am working though and so am forced to stand like a sheep in the rain, huddled next to strangers, some smoking, some smelly, some pretty, for long minutes and minutes while the Underground sort themselves out.
The gates open. The concourse is clear but the platform is a mess. A train is held, full of people. The platform is full of even more people. I find space, put my bag between my legs and wait. People shove past me in every direction. The sign still says ‘Held’. I wait.
Ten minutes and three full-to-the-brim trains later and I am on my way, squashed between two Italian twentysomethings, a weary businessman and faceless others. Between stations 2 and 3, the train stops. The driver announces something. We wait. The young Italians don’t know the rules and talk to each other, like they’re at the beach or something.
We move again and then stop again and so it continues. Until I am at another platform, off the tube, waiting for a train; this platform is also very overcrowded. I manoeuvre for position. I need to get on the next train; the house needs to be prepared for Granny Sheila.
I am on the train. The train stops, again not at a station. There is a simultaneous frustrated intake of breath, an indecipherable driver announcement and then deadly silence. It moves again. Repeat thrice.
Finally, the train begins to empty. I sit down, check my phone and breathe out. I take out my book, Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, I’m two chapters in and struggling, I love On The Road but I’d forgotten how long Kerouac’s sentences can be.
Anyway, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate – the evening of cleaning and the thought of showing my almost 80 year old grandmother around London is distracting me. The guy sitting opposite isn’t helping either.
In his forties, with slightly curly hair, he looks like a geologist, a pretty successful one. He has an air of confidence about him and is sitting with his legs crossed and has papers on this lap. His dangling foot is in my eye line.
His fold-up bike is also blocking the seat and I nearly fell over it when I was sitting down; minus further commuter points.
Maybe because the train isn’t packed or maybe because I’m off tomorrow I don’t fill up with rage. He’s annoying but has a certain friendly charm too. I forgive him and try to get on with my book.
Two minutes later, I look up. The geologist is staring at the papers in his lap. He has an odd, bewildered look on his face. He has a pencil in his hand. He’s making a list. I love lists. Reading them and making them. Watching someone make a list is something I am very interested in doing.
His manly geologist legs are folded in a peculiar way that is restricting my view. I can see though that the list is half printed half written, in pencil. This list was so important it was started at work and then printed it off to be continued on the train. This is no shopping list.
I adjust my position for a better view but still can’t read anything. It’s a list of sentences not words or names. What list is made of sentences? It could be a brainstorming list of ideas I think but his pensiveness makes me think otherwise. The train begins slowing.
I like this man and am disappointed as he begins to make leaving movements. As he uncrosses his legs and faces me more directly he looks less like a geologist. He could be anything really, he’s a middle-aged man who isn’t poor and doesn’t wear a suit to work.
As he gets up and begins to fold his bike, The List is revealed for a quick second, it’s enough time for me to see number one.
Every day is the same.