Why Aren’t You Listening?

In 2017, in a developed country whole blocks of flats shouldn’t be burning down because regulations were ignored or sub-standard materials were used when attempting to make the brutalist mistakes of the past look pretty. People have lost their lives through incompetence, austerity measures and a human right that every single person is entitled to: To have their voices heard. Residents of Grenfell Tower repeatedly tried to make their concerns known, instead of being listened to, they were threatened with legal action.

When a section of society are ignored because they don’t have the connections, money or knowledge there is something fundamentally wrong with the institutions that are supposed to protect them. It should not take the deaths of those same people before people start to take notice and pretend to care. If they cared, the situation would have been addressed, if they cared they would have used cladding that wouldn’t pass regulations in other countries. You can’t place a value on human life, there isn’t one.

This situation isn’t going to be unique to people in North Kensington, there will be people all across the country who will have concerns that won’t have been listened to. The government has stripped back money from councils, legal aid has been cut. In what is supposed to be a progressive democracy we are going backwards, people are being threatened into silence and denied their rights by the people who are elected to serve them. How can one come to any other conclusion than these cuts being deliberate measures to maintain the status quo?

Conservative ideology is one where people are told they will make it if they work hard, if they aspire to be the people at the top. What about the single mother that works four or five cleaning jobs and then goes home to look after her family? In what world does she not work hard? She works as hard as any but the reality is that she is trapped in a cycle where the only aim is to survive and provide enough to get through the weeks or even days. When it comes to aspiration, what are kids supposed to aspire to be? The person at the top who doesn’t listen to them anyway? No one is going to aspire to be the person that creates all of their problems in the first place.

Populism isn’t the answer either. I have no love for our current political system and what I believe to be the erosion of democratic rights. The left are as adept at shouting down alternating opinions as the right are in completely ignoring them. What the people involved will want is an answer to why they weren’t listened to, what is going to be done in the future to prevent it happening again and what will be done to help them rebuild their lives. Capitalising on this situation with empty promises and radical solutions that are not viable will only lead to further problems when they go unfulfilled.

When people are ignored they turn to extremes. While it is easy to label every person that voted for Donald Trump as ignorant or racist, not all of them will be. People in America were ignored. Rust Belt towns and cities that have been neglected and left to rot and die are glaring evidence of that. When the people living in these places heard someone telling them what they wanted to hear they listened. It’s not about ignorance, it’s about destitute people looking for glimmers of hope where they’ve had none.

Through all of this, the people of London have shown their strength and community spirit. They’ve come together and helped those in need. That is what gives me hope for the future. There is a realisation that austerity has created problems for societies most vulnerable, and in this case the biggest price has been paid. Governments, politicians and officials can’t keep ignoring people’s needs, nor can they try to capitalise on tragedy to ride a wave populism. What they need to do is listen and give people equality in being able to have their voices heard.

 

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Queen’s Park to the Elephant

Queen’s Park

 

Looking in the mirror, how do I look? Not great. I’m not sure, I reckon I’m not that bad looking. People say I’m good looking. I don’t know though, honestly, I don’t know what good looking is. I pick up the bottle of aftershave, it’s quite expensive, Tommy Hilfiger, I push down on the spray a couple of times. I don’t think that’s enough. Another couple, that should do it. I reckon she can’t miss me now. One last look in the mirror, I adjust the collar on my blazer so it’s sticking up, my shirt untucked, I’ll put it in before I get to school.

The freezing air hits me as I open the door. It’s still dark, I breathe out, watching my breath freeze in the air as I walk down the stairs. The grass is frosty, shining from the orange glow of the street lamp. I quickly pat my pocket, making sure I have the packet of 10 Benson in there. The old man I see every morning is on his way back home from buying his paper. I wave at him, he waves back, saying something I don’t quite catch. I laugh as if I’ve understood.

I look back to see him turn around the corner and pull out the packet of cigarettes. I light one, taking a long pull, my head rushing as I feel the nicotine hit. I cough as I blow out the smoke. My mate’s mum tried to grass me up for smoking, she phoned my mum and said I was making her son smoke. My mum laughed at her, said that I’d never smoke, I hated cigarettes. I feel a bit bad, I don’t know how she doesn’t know I smoke.

Reaching the end of the road I watch the bus fly past. Fuck it, now I’ll have to walk 20 minutes down the road. It either comes early or I have to wait half an hour for it, how comes it never comes just as I’m reaching the bus stop? I button up my blazer, it’s colder than I thought, the wind blowing straight into my face, I can feel my cheeks raw, they’re probably bright red. I walk past two girls standing at the bus stop, they start whispering to each other and giggling, I look straight ahead, they laugh louder as I pass. What the fuck are they laughing at?

Half way down the road, it seems never ending. I quicken my pace to make sure I get to the station on time. Another bus passes me out. I thought they were every half an hour? How comes there’s been two of them this morning. If I’d have waited at the bus stop that would never have come, I’d still be standing there. I walk even faster, I can’t be that late can I?

Walking into the station the warm air hits me. I look up at the clock. It’s still only 7.15, that’s a touch, I’m on time. She’ll definitely be on this train that I’m getting on. I buy a newspaper from the stand and read the football news, waiting for the train to pull in. There’s a man standing next to me, he keeps huffing and puffing, tutting because the train hasn’t arrived yet. I smile to myself as he keeps looking at his watch and then up at the station clock. Looking at them ain’t going to help you mate.

“I’ve got a bloody meeting to go to!” he mutters, just loud enough for people to hear, make him feel important. I’m sure he isn’t the only one with important things to do on the platform. As the train pulls in he rolls his eyes and then looks at me, “bloody trains”, I half smile back. I honestly couldn’t give a fuck mate.

You know how long it takes to get from one station to another, even though the tunnels are pitch black and you can see nothing out the window you know when each station is coming. As it approaches Kilburn Park I try to catch sight of the little alcoves in the walls of the tunnel. I do it every day, every day the same thing comes into my head. When I was only a kid, we lived across the road from Kilburn Park station, one day on the way home there were police cars and ambulances outside the station. Mum told me a kid was doing grafitti and tried to hide in one of the alcoves but the train caught him and dragged him along. I still can’t work out how he got into one of them alcoves.

In my head I’m trying to put myself in his position. How could you be mad enough to go down on to them tracks just to paint a train? Madness. How must he have felt as the train was approaching? I don’t know why it sticks in my mind all these years later. Maybe because he wasn’t that much older than me. No fucking way would you catch me running about on the tracks.

The train pulls in, the driver opens the doors and then closes them almost immediately, the man in the suit smiles to himself. Probably thinks it’s because of him that the driver is going through the station so quickly. Next stop is where she gets on, my head starts going a million miles an hour. It’s stupid, I’m not going to say anything to her, I ain’t even going to look at her, I can’t. I don’t know why but I just can’t, it’s like there’s something stopping my head from turning and looking. The train pulls in, she’s not there.

I open my newspaper and start to read it. I can relax now. It’s fucking stupid ain’t it? A girl I’m never going to talk to because I don’t have the confidence affects my journey to school every morning. I’m an idiot. I bet that man in the suit wouldn’t have any problem talking to someone. I swear tomorrow, if I see her I’m going to talk to her. I’ll just do it. How many times have I said that to myself? Every day for the last two months. I’ll never do it, I can’t, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I get off the train to change to the District Line, the platform is packed. The man in the suit pushes past people tutting and muttering to himself. He runs up the escalator, I watch as his foot catches one of the steps and he trips, half falling as he grabs on to someone. I laugh as he looks back to see if anyone saw him full. The escalator is packed with people, some of them laughing, some of them looking down at their feet wanting to laugh. He turns around and bows, some people clap and he runs off up the escalator to his important meeting.

A couple of my mates are waiting on the platform for the Wimbledon train. We nod our heads at each other.

“Did you hear about John?”

“What about him?”

“People are saying he’s a drug dealer?”

“Who said that?”

“Loads of people are saying it.”

“I don’t believe that. He’s quite posh ain’t he?”

“Did you do your homework?”

“Not yet, I’ll do it when I get to school.”

“Fucks sake, I was going to copy yours on the train.”

“You should have done it last night then.”

“You didn’t do it either. You’re eyes look fucked man, did you even sleep last night?”

“Not much, I was sitting up smoking some weed my mate brought around. Didn’t realise the time. He said be careful with it, I must have smoked about four joints and I was fucked. My head still feels a bit mashed.”

“You need to stop smoking that shit, it’ll fuck you up proper.”

“Na, it’s okay, if I have to do some English homework I can write mad stories.”

“Did you see that girl this morning?”

“Na, not this morning.”

“Did you talk to her yesterday? I swear I seen you on the same carriage as her on the way home.”

“Na, she was busy innit, talking to her friends. I don’t want them laughing at me.”

“You ain’t ever going to talk to her. I swear every day you say you’re going to talk to her and then the next day when I see you, you say you ain’t spoken to her. I’ll just talk to her for you.”

“Na, don’t do that, man. I swear if I see her on the way home I’ll talk to her. I don’t know what you’re talking about anyway, you keep telling me how you get every girl’s number but I’ve never seen you with any of them.”

“I’m not going to be bringing them to school am I. You reckon I’m lying? I’ll bring one down after school next week.”

“Yeah, yeah. Come, get on the train man otherwise we’ll miss it.”

We don’t talk to each other as the train seems to take forever to get the last stop. This is supposed to be my last year before sixth form. I don’t even want to go to sixth form at this school. I hate it. I never wanted to go here in the first place, I wanted to go where all my mates went to school. It’s a good school, but most of the people, they ain’t my people. They’re all these middle class kids that go home to big houses and shit. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

I want to leave, but I don’t think my mum will let me. I want to go to the college just down the road. The train pulls into Notting Hill gate, that girl’s friends are all waiting on the platform, one of them sees me and smiles and then whispers into her friend’s ear. I smile back but can feel myself going red. Her friend looks up at me and gives me a dirty look. My mate punches me in the arm and laughs.

“What you doing?”

“Nothing, you’re a fucking idiot.”

“Shut up, man. Why don’t you go and get her number?”

“Na, I’ve got too many numbers.”

I know he’s talking rubbish. He’s one of them people, a good person, someone that you’d always want around, someone that would always back you up but you know that most of the things that come out of his mouth are rubbish. I remember one time he told me how his dad was a secret agent. This was years ago when we first started secondary school. A secret agent? How does he think anyone is going to believe that? I just smiled. I’m one of them people that will just let it go, I don’t want to say I know you’re talking shit, I just can’t do that, I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

Half the train is filled with kids now, all going to one school or another. The ones from the girls school pointing and laughing at the boys from our school. All the boys from our school trying to show off or pretend their hard, telling stories about things they did the night before or what they were going to do at the weekend. There’s a little kid sitting down on his own, he tries to laugh along but everyone ignores him. One of the younger kids tells him to shut up, he looks down at his shoes. He looks up again and catches my eye and then looks back down at his shoes. What am I going to do?

We all pour off the train, most taking their time, not wanting to get to school, trying to delay the inevitable. I walk ahead of my friends, I need to get in early and finish off my homework. It’s mad, four or five years ago when I just started I always did my homework, I never did anything I wasn’t supposed to. Now I’m not doing my homework because I’ve ended up spending all night smoking weed. I hope my mum doesn’t go into my room because you can’t mistake the smell.

My best mate is sitting at a table reading the newspaper.

“How comes you’re here so early?”

“Someone was looking for you yesterday.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I got off the train at Notting Hill there was four boys asking me if I knew you.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know who they were, they go to that other school. I said I don’t know you.”

“How do you know it was me they’re looking for?”

“The way they described you. It was you.”

“Whatever man, I don’t know who they are or why they’d even be looking for me.”

“Just be careful.”

“Yeah, yeah. You still coming around mine on Saturday night, it’s my birthday.”

“Of course, you asked that girl yet?”

“Na man.”

“You’re such a pussy. I swear if I see her today I’m asking her for you. Come on man, if you don’t ask her it’s just going to be me, you and Ally.”

“I’ll ask her, I swear I’ll ask her on the way home tonight if I see her.”

“I saw her yesterday, she was looking pretty good.”

“Stay away from her man.”

“I’m joking you idiot, I wouldn’t do that to you. Remember them boys are looking for you though. They looked like they wanted to start something.”

“I don’t know who they are. I ain’t even done anything to anyone either so they must be talking about someone else.”

“It’s you they’re looking for, I’m telling you.”

“Whatever.”

I take out my books and start doing my homework as quickly as I can. Who could there be that would be looking for me? I had some trouble with kids in my area last year but they wouldn’t be looking for me on any trains. Most of them wouldn’t go out of their own area. There was them two kids that tried to rob me on the way home last week but I told them to fuck off. Maybe they got some of their friends and were waiting for me to try and rob me again. Why would they be waiting at the wrong station though? It ain’t me they’re looking for, it’s someone else, he’s just trying to wind me up.

The school day is long. My English teacher hates me and I’ve got double English. No matter what I do it’s never right. I did a presentation last week. I never prepare properly for anything, but this time I did, brought in a video, wrote down loads of stuff and was ready for it. I thought it went quite well and he still gave me a C. Some other kid in the class did his by reading from a piece of paper as quick as possible and he gets an A. It’s no wonder I don’t fucking try.

The teacher is reading from some book that is important for our exam. I’m looking out the window, nothing he is saying is going in. I see that kid that was on the train, he’s walking across the playground but he’s limping, like there’s something wrong with his leg. I’ve never noticed him before. It’s a big school but you usually know the kids that are disabled. He stares at the floor as he drags his leg along. That must be shit, being in a school when there’s something wrong with you, kids are fucking relentless, they’ll take the piss out of anything.

He trips, throws his bag down in frustration and then looks up and around to see if anyone is looking. He can’t see me all the way up here. I feel bad for him but what am I going to do about it? It’s one of them things, that’s how it is in school, you just try and survive yourself, try not to attract too much attention so other kids don’t start giving you grief. I can’t wait to get out of this place.

“Stop looking out the window and pay attention to the book!”

I look at the teacher and then pretend to look at the book. This idiot sat in front of my mother and told her I was apathetic. I had to look that word up. He said I have potential but I’m never going to fulfil it unless I try harder. What’s the point in trying harder if you never get any praise for it anyway. Some kids don’t have to do anything and they’re the most amazing thing in the world. Fuck it, it doesn’t matter. It’s my birthday at the weekend, a few mates around, I’m going to ask that girl as well. That’s all that’s important to me, just getting wasted.

“Can I talk to you for five minutes?”

“Yeah, what about?”

“Listen, I think you can do really well in your exams if you just pull your finger out and start being a bit more motivated.”

“I am motivated…”

“You’re not. Look, I know you don’t like your English teacher, I know that most of your other teachers think you have massive potential but they think you’re lazy.”

“I’m not lazy, sir. I just don’t have any confidence, I don’t believe in myself.”

“Why not? You’ve a few months left to sort yourself, if you even try half as hard as some of the other kids you’ll walk the exams and then you’ll be in sixth form with university to look forward to.”

“I don’t want to go sixth form here, I want to go uni but not this sixth form. I hate this school, you know that sir.”

“Just try, you’ve got all the potential in the world. Sort yourself out, get your head down.”

“Okay, I’ll try.”

What was that all about? No teacher has ever said anything like that to me before. Maybe he’s right, I should just sort it out, stop being lazy and make a proper effort. After this weekend I’ll give it a go. One last mad weekend. It probably won’t be the last one but I’ll just tell myself that.

Last 10 minutes of the day. I keep looking up at the clock. The teacher is talking nonsense, no one is listening. The bell rings and everyone rushes out the door. I walk slowly up towards the station, none of my mates are going home straight away, they have things to do. I see that kid with the bad leg in front of me, there’s two other kids walking beside him, calling him names. I quicken my pace.

“How do you even get home with such a fucked up leg. I bet it must take you about 10 hours.”

“How come you don’t have any friends?”

“Fuck off and leave him alone you pair of pricks.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

I grab one of them by the collar and throw him against a wall. His mate backs off, I let him go and they walk off quickly, not looking back. The kid with the bad leg looks at me and says thanks, I just half smile and carry on walking. I look back, he’s still looking down but this time it looks like he’s still smiling.

The platform is filled with kids. The train pulls in and it’s packed as well, I see her though, through the crowd. Long black hair, she catches my eye through the window as the train slows down at the station. The door opens and I push in through the crowd. I can feel her looking at me. I look around and she looks away as our eyes meet. I feel myself go red. I can’t not talk to her today, if I don’t I’ll never do it.

Most people get off at Earl’s Court, she’s still standing there with her friends. I ain’t going to talk to her with all her friends around. I’ll wait until we get on the Bakerloo Line. What am I going to say to her? What if she just ignores me or thinks I’m some kind of weirdo. You just have to do it. Doesn’t matter what happens. The doors start beeping as they begin to close. Someone jumps on quickly. It’s that kid that tried to rob me with his friend last week. He’s on his own but he keeps staring at me. It don’t matter, he’s not going to do anything while he’s on his own.

The whole journey to Paddington he keeps staring at me. I want to say something to him but I can’t be bothered with any trouble, there’s no point. She’s on her own now, only one more stop until we both get off. My heart is starting to race, I don’t want the stop to come, I don’t want to get off and have to talk to her, but at the same time I do. This is madness, why can’t I be like one of them confident people that just talk to girls no problem? If she ignores me or rejects to me I’m never going to be able to talk to another girl again.

The doors open, she walks off down the tunnel, she seems to be walking quickly, she doesn’t want to talk to me. I can’t do this, she really doesn’t want to talk to me. Why did I ever think she’d like someone like me anyway? I’m an idiot. I look back, that kid is behind me still staring at me. What the fuck is his problem? I swear he doesn’t normally get off at this stop. She’s quite far ahead of me now, that’s it, the chance is gone, another day, another time I’ve bottled it.

I see something drop out of her bag, looks like a pencil case. Everyone else just walks past it. I pick it up, now I’m going to have to talk to her. I take a deep breath and start to jog through the tunnel to catch up with her.

“Excuse me, you dropped this.”

She turns around as I tap her on the shoulder, she looks surprised but then she smiles. She takes the pencil case.

“Thanks! I didn’t notice I’d dropped it.”

“No worries.”

She walks in step with me, not walking away like I thought she would do.

“Where abouts do you live? I see you on the train every day.”

“I live in Queen’s Park, well just up the road from Queen’s Park. And you?”

“Between Kilburn and Maida Vale.”

“I used to live in Kilburn when I was a kid. What’s your name?”

“Emma.”

“You want to go to a party on Saturday night?”

“Whose party?”

“Mine, it’s my birthday.”

“You know, I’ve seen you on the train for months and I thought you would never ever speak to me and now you’re inviting me to a party.”

“So, you want to come?”

“I’ll come, where shall I meet you?”

“Meet me at Queen’s Park station on Saturday, 5 O’clock, I’ll be waiting for you.”

“Okay.”

We stand in an awkward silence until the train reaches her stop. She smiles at me and waves as she gets off the train. I sit down on one of the seats. Why did I just stand there in silence? It doesn’t matter, she’s coming to my party. I look up at the ceiling of the train and smile. Through the window between the carriages I can see that kid is on the other carriage. I swear he’s following me. It’s still just him though. What if there are people waiting for at Queen’s Park?

At the last two stops I scan the platform, seeing who is getting on and off the train. The platforms are empty and there are only a couple of people on the train. I can’t stop smiling to myself. It’s been a good day. I can’t wait to get home, no, I can’t wait to get off the train and have a fag. My heart is still racing. I half run up the stairs at the station, I don’t think that kid is following me anymore, I’m going to walk through the park on the way home, I like that walk when I’m feeling happy.

I go into the shop to buy a can of Coke and a packet of Rizla. The man behind the counter is singing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ to himself. He gives me a funny look when I was ask for king size blue Rizla and then laughs and carries on singing to himself. I laugh with him, leaving the shop and then turning down the side road towards the park. It’s already starting to get dark, I forgot the park might not even be open. Doesn’t matter, I’ll just walk down the quiet back roads.

I light up a cigarette and walk slowly down the road, I can’t even feel the cold. I wonder what Saturday night is going to be like now? It’s taken me all this time to build up all that courage and in the end it was easy. Me, the least confident person when it comes to girls finally does it. I can’t wait to tell me mates tomorrow. The streets have a strange orange glow from the street lights.

My head starts to wander as I dream about walking down the road holding her hand, going to the cinema together. Sixteen on Saturday, start of life, nearly an adult. I kind of understand what that teacher was saying to me too, he was right, I am lazy sometimes, I need to do something about that.

I hear a noise behind me, like someone scrapping their shoes against the floor. I turn around but can’t see anyone. Usually I’m alert but I’ve been lost in my own world. I carry on walking, listening to hear if there’s anyone behind me. I’m sure there was no one there, must just have been someone going into their house. I might walk back towards the main road anyway, at least there’ll be people along there.

I feel something sharp in my lower back. I turn around and see that kid. He’s looking at me, his eyes wide open like he’s frightened. I start to feel dizzy and fall backwards on to the floor, I see him run off down the road. Everything seems even more orange, the lights really intense. That kid that was killed by the train flashes into my head. There’s someone by my side but I don’t know who it is, they’re holding my hand and talking to me, they sound upset. I’m back in the train station again, talking to Emma. Now I’m drifting off into one of them deep sleeps, don’t look back in anger, I heard her say…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kilburn Park

There’s people everywhere today, what’s going on? I look out the window, there isn’t usually this many people out and about. What I’m I going to do? How am I going to go out? I sit down on the chair again and tap the table with my fingers. I look back out the window but I can’t see down on to the street, only the buildings on the other side of the road. Some woman is smoking a fag on her balcony, watching the world go by. I take a sip of my coffee, it’s strong, like tar, I scrunch my face up as I swallow.

There’s a fellow on the radio talking about how it’s a new era for Britain, this Tony Blair geezer is going to change the country. Ain’t going to change much for me is it? None of them ever do. I was supposed to go and vote but I never, I made it as far as the old metal building but I couldn’t go in the door. I made it that far at least. Better than nothing I keep telling myself.

In the kitchen I open the fridge door, there’s nothing in there, empty, not even a carton of eggs. I’ll have to go out, I’ve got no choice. I’ll have one more coffee first, then I’ll get ready and go. Just walk out the door, that’s all I have to do.

This is the first short story from my new book Queen’s Park to the Elephant. Each short story is based on a tube station along London’s Bakerloo line during the 90s. The above story is inspired by my own experiences and also recent happenings in the area where I grew up. There has been a lot of senseless violence for petty reasons and the above story illustrates we’re all just people, there’s no need for the foolishness that goes on among the youth of today. 

You can sign up at the link below for emails each time one of my books are released. I will only ever email you when a book is released, I’m not a fan of mailing lists but as an independent author they are a necessity! Thanks for reading and if you haven’t already please take a few minutes to have a look at the two previous books I have written which are linked to below.

Book release newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cScA0r

The Unwashed: My first book which is a book of short stories based on an inner city housing estate.

Liar: My first novel about a kid growing up with his heroin addicted mother and his constant fight to throw off the labels which people give him.

Invisible Walls

The trains are moving back and forwards through the yard, none of them look like they’re leaving any time soon. I don’t even know where I want to go, most of them will go south. Maybe I should just go south, it’s warmer down there, the wind and rain is starting to get to me. The car with the security guard has gone past a few times, not enough for me to be worried about him, I’m done with worrying, I’m sitting here waiting because I don’t want to worry anymore.

I arrive home from work, my small apartment spotlessly tidy. I fall onto the sofa exhausted, another 13 hours gone by, another pay cheque, all I have to do now is fall asleep and do it all again tomorrow. I’m too tired to even read a book, watch television, my mind is fuzzy, not able to think straight. As my eyes start to close I hear the two people next door arguing, I can’t make out the words, it’s just noise. A door slams and I hear footsteps walking away, sounds of crying through the wall. Welcome home.

I roll up my sleeping bag, ready to go. The train yard has a strange orange glow as the setting sun breaks through the clouds, the rain stopping. I take a long drink from the can of beer and throw the rest of it into the bushes. This train looks like it’s leaving, let’s just hope it’s going in the right direction. It passes my little hideout slowly, carriage after carriage of freight, coal and chemicals. It stops, now is my chance, I jump out from the bushes and look left and right, making sure no one can see me. There’s no one there. I throw my bag into the back of one of the trailers carrying those long cargo boxes, grab the steps and climb up, lying down so nobody can see me.

Sitting on the bus in the morning, barely awake. It’s all automated, I just go through the motions, I don’t even need to think anymore. Putting my clothes on, walking to the bus stop, getting on to the bus. If I wasn’t on the bus I wouldn’t even remember walking to the bus stop. We pass a railway yard, I notice there’s a man running towards one of the freight trains, he throws his bag inside and then jumps in himself. Is he a worker? Where would he even be going on a freight train? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?

I wait, everything is silent, waiting for the lurch of the train, pulling it’s never ending line of cargo to some place unknown to me. It jumps, picking up speed as it pulls out of the yard. I peek over the edge my hiding place, the security car sitting there watching the train to see if they can spot people like me, people that aren’t supposed to be there, unwanted cargo. We pull off into the darkness, away from the bright lights of the yard I sit back against my bag, at least I’m moving now.

Nobody acknowledges me as I walk into the office. No ‘hello!’ or ‘good morning!’. They’re all just sat at their desks looking at computer screens. Not even work, just reading nonsense about what the latest celebrity has done, or looking at pictures of their friends in far off exotic places, secretly hating it them while they write out some comment telling them how beautiful their pictures are. It’s just torture isn’t it? Constantly looking at things we wished we had and never giving a thought to the things we do have. I laugh to myself, I am most guilty of that.

I drift in and out of an uneasy sleep, the train bumping along the tracks. I dream of being back home, hearing the door knob turn and my father coming in from work, picking me and swinging me around as I laugh, my mother watching and smiling. I wake suddenly, expecting to be lying on a bed but I’m not, just cold metal. The sun has risen already, a lake to my left, mountains trailing off into the distance. This is better than waking up in a bed.

My manager talks to me but I’m not taking any of it in. I stopped taking any of it in years ago. There’s nothing that she says that is of any meaning. I know what I am doing, I know what I am supposed to do. She knows that too, but she has to feel like she’s doing something, doing her job even though it isn’t necessary. She rolls her eyes and walks away to do the same to the person in the cubicle next to me. A pantomime repeated over and over, day after day, year after year. 

The noise and the incessant bumping are made easier by the beautiful scenery. How is it that beauty can remove us from our immediate surroundings? Right now, I’m not on a train, I’ve not just got a bag and the clothes I have on my back. I’m seeing snow topped mountains and beautiful blue lakes, there’s nothing else, just me and nature. Is this escapism or is it how it should really be? Why is appreciating beauty and letting your mind wander escapism? Why is taking off into the wilderness, living a life different to everyone else running away?

I look up at the clock, it’s time to go. Everyone walks out at the same time, barely speaking to each other, just exchanging a few words. I walk to the bus stop, the rain is soaking my clothes but I’m not bothered. I push onto the bus, there’s hardly any space to move, people pushing and shoving, tutting and being aggressive with each other even though they all have the same objective, get home and fall asleep, maybe if you’re lucky you have kids and you can spend some time with them. I’m not that lucky, it’s just me. 

The train comes to a sudden halt, back to my surroundings. I’d got so lost I didn’t realise we’d stopped just outside a town. Do I stay on or do I get off? There’s nothing here I would guess, this is the middle of nowhere. I grab my bag and jump off, change of plan, heading south can wait.

There’s a pile of letters in my mailbox. I pick them up and then throw them back down on my table with the rest of them, all unopened. Money, that’s all they will want. I sleepwalk my way through each day to make it, then I come home and have to give it all away again. I could keep it and run. Where would I run to though? Between my home and the office is a route and that route has a big invisible wall that you never go outside of. Sometimes you do climb it but when you’re outside of it you never feel comfortable, you just want to get back between them walls, the uncomfortable feeling of no escape is really your secret comfort.

I climb up through some trees and emerge on a road. I can hear the screeching of the train’s wheel as it pulls away, almost like it was waiting for me to get off. I don’t know when the next one will be through, it could be a long wait. I head along the road towards where the town should be, no cars are passing, this place really is the back of beyond. I’m hungry, I hope there’s somewhere to eat.

I wake up with my plate of dinner still resting on my stomach. I fell asleep without even eating. I take a bite but it’s stone cold, it would have been bad enough warm, I throw it in the rubbish bin. I pick up the letters from the table and throw them in too. The shower gives me enough energy to start the process of getting through the day. I reach for my briefcase and then stop, instead I pick up my backpack and throw some clothes into it, shut the door behind me and walk to the bus stop. 

The town is empty, not a person on the streets. There’s what looks like a bar and an old diner next to it. There are some houses behind the main street but no sign of anyone. I approach the bar, I push the door expecting it to be locked but it swings inwards. It’s empty apart from a man sitting at the bar and someone I assume is the owner. Neither look up as I enter. I sit down at the bar,they still ignore me. I ask for a beer, he reaches under the bar and pulls a bottle out, putting it in front of me. I have nothing to open it with. I pop the top off using the edge of the bar and leave some money, I’ve not much left now.

The bus stops outside the train yard. I feel as though something is holding me to my seat, not letting me move. I force myself up and push through the crowds and out the door. People give me strange looks, wondering why is he getting off here today? It seems as though the bus is hesitating, it thinks I’ve got off at the wrong place, that I’m going to want to get back on. I turn away from it and walk with purpose to the fence of the yard. The bus pulls off. 

The diner appears to be closed, I sit outside on a table sipping my beer, it should take the edge of the hunger. It doesn’t bother me much though, I’ll find something to eat. A man walks down the street, he keeps his eyes on me as he passes, then he waves and approaches me. I wave back, nervous, wondering what it is that he wants. He asks where I am going, I tell him I don’t know, he laughs and talks about the weather and then tells me there’s a train coming through at 8, he winks as he says it. Join him for a beer if I want. I agree and we walk back to the bar.

I see one of the trains starting to move as I jump off the fence. Where is it going? I look back to the bus stop, there’ll be another bus in a minute, I could just get back on that, I’d only be 10 minutes late. The train screeches. I run, copying the man I saw yesterday, throwing my bag onto the train and then climbing on. I sit there watching the city disappear, the countryside replacing the concrete. I’m free. I’ve left. 

We sit together in the bar, drinking beer that he keeps paying for. He doesn’t say much, we sit drinking, each lost in their own thoughts. Eventually he looks at his watch, I look up at the clock, it’s almost seven. I start to say my goodbyes but he gets up to, walking out of the bar with me. As we walk back towards the spot I got off the train he looks at me.

“Once you’re free of that wall, you’re never going to be able to get back inside it…”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/revelation/

 

There’s Nothing to Eat

There’s a woman on the television telling me I’m useless. Not just me, everyone that is struggling to make ends meet. Funny! I suppose when you’ve grown up with everything given to you, you’ll never understand what it’s like to have to try and achieve something, try and get somewhere in your life. I pick the book up I’ve been reading from, it’s part of the course I’m doing, trying to better myself, I throw it at the television and punch the air in frustration, screaming inside. The tears want to burst out but I won’t let them.

“Mum, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, love. The book fell out of my hand.”

She looks at me as though I’m odd, my own daughter probably thinks I’m a lunatic. Then she laughs, like children do, distracted by something, she runs off out of the room. I pick up the book and put it back on the table. I’m angry at myself, I shouldn’t lose control like that. It’s frustration though, you do everything you can but still you don’t get a break. See, even now I’m doing everything I hate, feeling sorry for myself, being the victim. Am I a victim though? I don’t know, I don’t want to be. Society would say I’m just one of the average Janes.

I watch as Charlotte runs around the living room. Lost in a world of her own, one of them that only children can find. I wish I could do that, just for five minutes, run around in a circle and be somewhere that’s not here. Her with me, she can come off to this fantasy world with me, fuck the rest of them. The woman is still on the television, droning on and on. Talking nonsense, it means nothing to me. I’m not stupid, but it’s all just platitudes, cliches, meaningless numbers. How am I supposed to have any connection to a person like that?

I put my books away in the small cabinet beside my tatty sofa. A friend gave it to me when she was moving house. I catch a glimpse of the envelopes with my name and address written on them, quickly putting my books on top of them so I can’t see them. If I can’t see them I don’t have to think about them. Well, I do have to think about them, but not as much as when they’re staring back at me. They’ll be due soon, I’ve nothing to give them. What’ll I do if they cut off the electricity? The winter will be here soon enough. I’ll find a way, I always manage somehow.

There’s a knock at the door. Who’s that? I’m not expecting anyone, it can’t be anyone looking for money.

“Charlotte, be quiet a minute sweetheart, sit down on the sofa.”

I look down out of the window, it’s a man in a suit, wearing a blue tie. He’s skinny, doesn’t look like he’d even be out of school that long. He can’t be looking for money, if he is then he isn’t going to get very far. I walk down the stairs, open the door a crack. He smiles a fake smile.

“Hello, madame, I’m from the Conserv….”

I shut the door back in his face. I’ve not got the time or energy to be listening to another one of these clowns promising me the world, telling me what they are supposed to have done for me, all while I stand there wondering what I’m going to feed my child with tonight and whether I’ll have enough money in the morning to get myself a cup of coffee as a treat when I take her to school. Like any of them give a shit. Same as the woman on the television. They’ll never connect to me, or anyone that lives around here, their lives were and always will be a million miles away.

“Mum who was that?”

“Just some man telling us how great he is, Charlotte.”

“Why’s he knocking on our door?”

“Who knows?”

“What’s for dinner? I’m hungry!”

“I’ll get you something now. I think there’s some eggs in the fridge.”

I open the fridge, there is a box of eggs, I open them hoping there will be more than two. No. Only the two. I turn on the gas and put the frying pan on to the flame, frying the two eggs in a daze. My stomach hurts, I’ll check my purse, see if I can go and get something from the shop. I finish frying the eggs, put them on a plate and on to the table. I call Charlotte and watch as she devours them. Doesn’t complain that it’s too little or that she’s still hungry.

“Will you read me a story tonight?”

“Of course I will, go and finish your homework and then we’ll sit on the sofa and read.”

I take my purse out of my handbag, there’s just enough to get through the next couple of days until I get paid. I can’t afford to go and get something from the shop. I’m scared I won’t have enough to get more food in for tomorrow. I close the purse, putting it back inside the bag. I laugh to myself as I see a lottery ticket, a desperate hope. They’ve always got to keep you hoping don’t they? I think back to that woman on the T.V, I wonder what she’s doing. I bet she isn’t hungry anyway.

Don’t vote for those who don’t care about the working class. 

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