Thursday, January 03, 2008

Work In Progress - An Update

Amy rolled over in her bed, burying her head into the pillow, a low groan radiating from her mouth as her left hand reached out to silence the screech of the alarm clock. It was 6am.
“Five more minutes,” she said, to no one in particular. Amy lived alone, in a third-floor flat in a not-too-salubrious part of the west London suburbs. Within what seemed to Amy as mere seconds, the screeching began again in earnest; this time she flung back the duvet, its cover of embroidered flowers sliding to the floor. She lifted her legs out of the bed, rubbed her eyes with closed fists and reached over to a small chair, on the back of which was draped a silk gown. As she pulled the gown tight around her petite frame, she pushed her manicured feet into a pair of fluffy pink slippers.

Amy’s morning routine was always the same: kettle on for her coffee; shower on, the steam rising up to the inadequate extractor fan and billowing out into the rest of her one-bed flat; a rush to find clean clothes which she could wear that day. In fact, Amy’s morning ritual was typical of most of her friends, all twenty-somethings working in offices across London. This morning was no different.
After slurping her way through a lukewarm coffee, Amy grabbed her (fake) Gucci clutch bag, slipped on a pair of heels and her coat and slipped out of her place, heading for the stairs that would lead her to the outside world, one that appeared to be frosty and uninviting.
It was just a short two-minute walk to the station for Amy, her main reason for investing in such a small place to live at such an exorbitant price. She grabbed a copy of the Metro, the free newspaper that contained yesterday’s news, and stood stamping her feet on the concrete platform. The display said the train would be there in 1 minute; the platform soon became crowded with other, late-arriving passengers, all jostling for space, trying to determine where the train doors would stop. Regulars like Amy held their ground in the same place every single day; not even a nuclear bomb warning would budge them. Thirty seconds later, Amy was squashed against the sweaty armpit of a fellow commuter and the luggage of a visiting American family who, unbeknownst to them, had decided to travel into the capital during rush hour. She tried to read her paper but couldn’t; Amy had to experience her daily commute with the sound the tinny sound of drums and cymbals teasing itself out of someone’s headphones. Amy wished she’d bought an iPod.
The train driver crackled his announcement over the distorting Tannoy system of the train; soon they would be arriving at Waterloo station, please would passengers remember to take their luggage with them. Amy said the words verbatim in her head, her way of coping with the cattle truck conditions endemic on Britain’s railways every weekday morning and evening, a situation she had to pay a large proportion of her monthly salary to experience.
Amy alighted from the train, sucked along with the outpouring of people that flowed towards the barriers flanked by bristling ticket inspectors with their machines at the ready, their posture suggesting that all passengers were guilty of fare evasion until proven otherwise. Amy hated this part of her daily journey the most. She endured it because she was able to take 15 minutes on the other side to compose herself, grab two steaming cup of frothy milk and dark, rich caffeine and exit the station long after the majority of commuters had streamed out, forming their queues for the buses and taxis that huddled like black and red penguins along York Road.
And she would was also able to spend some time with the homeless Big Issue seller who was always positioned at the bottom of the steps that led Amy towards Hungerford Bridge and the grey, 70’s concrete of the South Bank Centre. She would hand him the spare coffee she’d purchased from the station, slip some coins or notes into his seen-better-days polystyrene cup or his shit-stained palms, holding her breath to avoid the stench of decay all homeless people seemed to exude in vast quantities; a street-scent; a vagrant aftershave.
Amy was not the type to do this. Not usually. But there was something about this man that seemed familiar to her, although she was unable to put her finger on it. Somehow, he made her feel like a daughter loved by her father. Except Amy’s father had disappeared when she was just 14 years old, at the same time her mother was dying from a pernicious cancer that had ravaged her body for years. No one had seem him since and Amy was left to be brought up by a strict aunt, a cliché she thought was only in books, but sadly for her was something that could be found in abundance in the outside world. But that didn’t stop Amy from searching for him, looking at the faces of all the men she met who were over 50 years old.
There was something about this man, the huddled rag of a man, who sat day-after-day outside the station, waiting for something other than money, recognition or pity. It seemed he was searching for someone too.

2 comments:

purplesimon said...

A departure from Alan's story.

This runs on from the previous Work In Progress post and forms part of a larger work.

I'm editing/writing as I go along; some of this is done and ready to go and as I redraft so I add in new parts.

I now have a clear idea of where this is going and will, at some point soon, put it all together under the title 'Anew'.

For now, enjoy the extracts.

purplesimon out...

cathy said...

I think that reading your work will inspire me to write better myself. Your attention to detail is breathtaking. I could see Amy getting out of bed and even the covers sliding to the floor.
Exquisite stuff!

....damned if I can see the word verification though. Where did I leave my glasses?