Monday, 16 August 2010

Cielo verde/In and Out and In and Out


I hovered cautiously across the concourse and onto a busy platform. Like a great shimmering blanket draped over two long, high parallel walls a glass roof sprawled over the station, an incubated sanctuary - momentary respite for weary engines. An unsightly pigeon tottered along one of the gargantuan iron arches supporting the roof. To me, there has always been a pleasing juxtaposition there - vaguely art nouveau swirls and gothic revival brickwork amongst great dormant arches: symbols of the fearsome omnipotence of nineteenth century industry.

I pulled down the lip of my hat and retreated into a caldarium of steam released from the great old locomotive, poised regally in a deeply rich burgundy. Another once great machine in its final days, waiting to be replaced by the new electric locomotives. In the haze my mind wandered to thoughts of the night before. The express train was delayed, a man had died on the on line, and we waited, silently still, in the dark, for hours. A fatality they said. Heavy and suffocating green light fell into the unlit carriages and onto our faces. I became insufferably bored. I took 4 or 5 sleeping pills, I can’t remember, and sunk into my seat, stubbornly fighting the urge to drift off. 


In the cafe I stood up and pulled aside a chair for the girl that had arrived at my table. She smiled at me cautiously, expectantly, waiting for me to speak first, and then sat down carefully as I hung her coat and hat over the back of her chair. I said nothing, and so with a resigned sigh she took off her little silk gloves with lace trimming and laid them out, one on top of the other, on the pearl white table cloth. I moved the flowers to one side so that I might better see her face. She laid both her hands flat on the round table before she spoke.

«Well nice to see you, I'm glad we are to be civil.»
«I appreciate how you might find things...» (she paused momentarily as if to ensure that she chose the right words) «...difficult, but I must think of myself as well - what I should like to do. I am reluctant to say this, but I feel that I speak fairly and with good conscience when I say that you are a burden to me.»
"The overloaded sidecar to your Royal Enfield, if you like."
«I do wish you needn't be so churlish, James.»

I briefly opened my eyes lethargically as the train passed over a particularly uneven stretch of track. Whether it was out of proud facetiousness or simply from facing the omnipotent musk of defeat is of no consequence, but it is certain that it was my fault that the rest of the supper passed without much conversation, and we stood in silence as we waited for her car.


I felt terrible when I eventually woke up, and even worse for allowing a dream, pure fantasy, to warp the perspective I had of reality. Yet I knew that the fantasy bore a startling similarity to what will most likely happen someday.
Here comes your man, I thought. A red faced man of about 23 alighted in the middle of the platform, put on his hat and walked brusquely towards the exit. She left me for him? Really? I waited for a few seconds, and stepped out of the shadows and steam. 

In the bright August sun I watched the man put his suitcase in the back of a little black Alfa Giulietta. There was no doubting it was her car. I frowned and started my engine, pulling out behind them onto the road out of town.