Under the tower
In need of. Shower
Long day saying Mass
Now surrounded. Shards of glass.
Collar undone, black pants grey.
A priest off duty. (Off the rails.)
Former entrance, now bypassed.
The tower’s faded glory lasts.
Flags hang limp, limp creatures there
And tourists climb the outer stair
Its free on Sunday, don’t you know
Last night’s kebabs still strewn below.
For night time revellers – a spot to play
The tower speaks in shades of grey.
The lone walker on the bridge
Feels the cold shoulder of the breeze
He shuffles further from the edge,
And muffles an uninvited sneeze.
The city shivers in the pre-spring chill,
Failing to cope with change in clime.
The winds continue, the traffic still
The night time is the hardest time
Looking at him, you’d never have guessed he was a high-ranking sales representative with a six-figure salary. You’d never have guessed that he was only forty-six years of age. You’d probably never have guessed that he had never used public transport until a few weeks ago. However, even without any of that information, you might have guessed that he was going to die. Not in the ‘everybody’s-going-to-die-sooner-or-later’ sense, but in the ‘that-guy’s-sick-as-a-small-hospital’ sense. He knew it, too. Only Chin could possibly save him, Sidney reflected.
Sidney watched his reflection in the opposite window, shown sporadically as the trees on either side of the track flicked in and out of view. Each time he was shocked by what he saw. Somehow each week it was worse, despite Chin’s insistence to the contrary. The distance from his village platform to the city suburbs was next to nothing, five minutes of steadily increasing passenger numbers before taking a dive underground and becoming a crowded nightmare. Thrust into this routine unwillingly at middle age, he was still getting used to his new station in life.
Today, he saw, the scarf his wife had bought him seemed to magnify his yellowed eyes – it was the colour, not of death, but of stained hospital sheets. The fluorescent lights in the carriage were unforgiving. Out in the open, with the daylight outside, you’d barely notice them but underground the change was significant. People became reflected in unflattering ways in the smudged windows. Sidney had felt that his thick-rimmed glasses gifted him with gravitas and created a positive impression with clients. That feeling was gone. The metro, great leveller that it is, had caricatured him, accentuating the round, scarred face, sagging jowls and jaundiced eyes hiding behind the ridiculous glasses. It wasn’t that he felt old. He’d felt old since he was twenty-five. It was the compound fact that, to add to this, now he actually was Old. He finally looked how he felt. Was this Chin’s doing? Did he have some sort of magical Oriental psychic powers? That wasn’t the impression he gave. In the last few weeks, Sidney had yet to see anything deeper to him than his profession. And even that, he treated with a healthy dose of Western cynicism. Which was partly why Sidney continued coming. Chin had become like an old friend.
Breathing deeply, and with difficulty, he grasped the bar and hauled himself to his feet. The metro slid to a halt. One good thing about the trip; the trains always stopped in the same place. He counted his steps to the escalator, waited for the right moment and then planted his feet firmly on the same step, holding tightly to the handrail as he swayed slowly with the motion. He could easily spend an hour riding upwards on an escalator, he thought. He closed his eyes and counted the seconds, stepping off at exactly the right moment. “At least my memory is still intact”, he thought. Looking around the empty station, with its many entrances, he shivered and wound his scarf more closely around his face. He’d been feeling the cold recently. More than usual. That was something he could ask Chin about. Chin might smile. Sidney felt a great relief when Chin smiled. He was almost there, just one more escalator. He looked up at the bright light framed in the portal and whispered “I’m coming, Chin.”
The girl with the purple lipstick sauntered up the street from the Metro entrance. Her black jacket was fashionably cut, but not ostentatious. The sleeves finished above the wrist and showed off the cuff of a T-shirt in a matching shade of purple. A violent Violet. That’s how I thought of her. I knew where she was headed, too. I’d be heading there myself shortly. And she would be there, as immaculately dressed and remote as she looked now, those perfectly formed, perfectly painted lips calling me.