7 April 2008

Outside Brixton tube station

We were to meet outside the tube station in Brixton, an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. The premise: a date. Riding up the escalator into the night, my first time here, I noticed acute drops in temperature with each weary clunk; a regular metallic grinding that quite clearly meant, “Please, use the stairs.”

It was colder than I expected. A still night, but dry compared to what I had become used to. Trails of breath lingered, their form and meaning suspended in transient beauty. Inexorably decaying from this fragile state, once gone they were replaced, in seamless exchange, by the heavily breathing procession of people around me. I wondered if I was the only person here without an imminent need to be in another place, and therefore the only person here capable of appreciating this scene. I briefly entertained the notion that it was entirely for me. Abruptly, someone buffeted me from behind; evidently I was in the way. Rousing myself with a deep icy breath, I realised that I had begun to tingle slightly.

The dense ball of excitement in my stomach wouldn’t attribute itself specifically to either the forthcoming event or the fact that I was back in London. It probably comprised an amount of both. Where I live (the Lake District, in case you’re interested), you don’t see that many people, especially at night, and the ones you do see are generally all made in the same factory. I spent ten minutes waiting at the top of the escalator but could have happily been there for an hour.

A gig must have been happening somewhere; hundreds of young people dressed brightly in day-glow trousers and coats filed past me. Resplendent non-conformity! Many of them wore sunglasses as well. I couldn’t decide whether this was part of the uniform or a safety-inspired consequence of their collective hue. One of them caught me grinning; shot me die hippy neon rays from under his star-shaped glasses before being sucked back into the amoebic mass. For some reason this tickled me, disproportionately so. I grinned even more.

From the dazzling stream of passers-by she suddenly emerged, instantaneously silhouetted against the crowd. Then, walking closer, I noticed her looking quizzically at the childish grin that somehow refused to leave my face. To my relief, she giggled. We wandered off to eat leaving our trails of laughter, unmistakably visible, hanging in the air outside the station.