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November 22, 2007

As yet the Station is deserted

This is another seminar piece. In keeping with my usual ineptitude I got the task wrong again and didn't stick to the story generated in class by handing around the paper 'consequences' style. Instead I took the first sentence only and the ending is a sentence from one of the stories on the handouts. It generated into a bit of a cheesy spy-novel esque piece. My attempts to keep in with the tone of the ending I had chosen meant that the story formulated itself around the exercise rather than any burning desire to explore or interest in the subject matter generated. As such I am not particularly proud of the results, but it was still an interesting experiment.

The train waits at the platform, but as yet this station is deserted. It is nearly always empty at this hour, a small indented pause before the storm of commuting chaos. The rumble of distant passengers, arriving in their taxi’s and cars, is almost audible over the quiet hiss of the waiting train, but as yet the platform remains bare and still. I watch over it like a ruffled crow, hunched over one of the Victorian walkways, my elbows propped up around my face on the iron rail. The train waits. Its doors are open but noone alights, and soon, if anyone does decide to emerge, they will be lost among the approaching surge of passengers. Already people are beginning to rattle up the stairs from the ticket machines to cross the bridge over to the empty platform. I can hear the wheels on their little suitcases and the slapping of briefcases and coats against their hurrying legs. I can smell the makeup of the women. Once again, as always, noone arrives to meet me from the northward train, and I shuffle discontentedly, only turning to walk away as the platform becomes flooded by travellers who begin jostling onto the carriages. I hunch my shoulders about myself to shrug off the cold that has penetrated me during my daily vigil.

Noone looks at me as I slouch off the walkway and down onto an opposing platform, that is empty except for pigeons. With a cursory glance about me I crouch, swing my legs over the lip of the concrete ledge, and jump down onto the track. I land cat like and unnoticed on the filthy gravel and stride quickly away from the station, following the metal rails till I pass beyond the service vehicles, the heaps of sooty sleepers and old rotting carriages and further still. I lope past the graffiti scrawled brickwork that shore up the banks where the line cuts through small hills. I am unconcerned about trains, having done this enough times to know the departure times of every service. After a while I come to the back of some warehouses. Striding through some more weeds, there is a hole in the netting fence to my left, and I slip through it. The unravelled wire catches at my tatty coat and I flinch angrily at the contact. Out of habit I check my pockets for my valuables, a sweaty sheath of documents, a grotty mobile phone that he gave me with a crack through the casing, and, wrapped preciously with my little packet of drugs, a small film case swaddled in selotape.

Some of the documents are letters concerning this innocuous little package, which I have never seen inside, carping over and over about its importance in the grand scheme, in the plan. Most of these correspondences are old now, months old, and every morning I wake up I tell myself that if no one comes on the train, it will be my last trip to the station. The petty cash sent with the letters, which are fewer and farther between now than they have ever been, is barely enough to sustain me. To subsidise my lifestyle I pickpocket half-heartedly, but both the degrading day to day realities of my life and the ridiculousness of my assignment are beginning to set in like dry rot. Few people notice me at the station but those who do assume I am a trainspotter. The task would be better if I had any interest whatsoever in trains, but I have never held much stock in such things. I prefer organic things, breathing things, like racehorses and women. My current squalor offers me few of the latter, however, and the ones I can afford I am repulsed by, just as they must be repulsed by me. I pause and take a piss against the fence I have just crawled through, a dangerous and ostentatious act, but no one is watching and I have grown bored of caution. I remember the first time, as a prim and goofy youth, that I had urinated outside. It was on a drunken night with new made friends, who seemed so excitingly boorish and streetwise. I had tinkled nervously up the wall of the estate agents I had been working at, fresh from university, with a pocket full of ambition and daddy’s money. I zip up and melt away into the scrubby undergrowth of a track-side wasteland, cussing under my breath at another failed trip. Whatever faith I had in the cause, in the mission, has long since been lost to inertia and doubt, and I continue now only as life affords me no other choices. Perhaps one of these days I am going to get a letter signed by A.K (as he, of course, liked to sign his letters), telling me that the whole fucking charade is over, that my time of reckoning has come.


DISCLAIMER: John Ware is not actually a stalker ( to my knowledge)

This is the seminar piece worked from our partner's short story. I mistook the assignment and thought we had to amalgamate it into a style of a different short story alltogether. Classic schoolboy error. Anyway, I rewrote John's story in the style of this dubious sci-fi short story I found on the internet about a man who remembers everything, literally everything. It ended up creating an interesting stalker-like effect, though I wasn't that pleased with the piece as a whole.


John saw the woman standing outside the party. She had left for the ladies room, in the wrong direction, at 12.15. As it was now 12.27, he knew that she had been standing out here alone in the dark for a full 12 minutes. He calculated that during this time she must have smoked 2 and a half of the cigarettes in the slightly crushed packed clasped in her hand. He approached her back cautiously.

‘I love you’ he repeated again, or rather, he corrected himself, almost repeated. The fist time he had actually said ‘I’m in love with you’, at 12.05 in the west recess of the marquee on the 13th of October. If she had replied in words he would have remembered them exactly, as he remembered everything. Instead he was left to memorise her slightly confused, slightly upset expression.

The woman’s shoulder blades rose and fell with a long smoky exhaled breath that shook slightly. She did not turn round. John looked at a tissue she had dropped, strangely bright in the darkness against the black tarmac.

‘I have since the first time I saw you, Tuesday the 8th of August, 2005, 10.15 in the morning and you were shopping. You were standing outside of Morrisons, you had lots of bags and you smiled at me because the wind was blowing your hair and skirts and shopping bags everywhere and you had to smile at it or be embarrassed. You were wearing that brown skirt and a blue shirt I only ever saw two more times. You had your black rimmed glasses on. You had six shopping bags and they were digging into your arms they…’

‘John…’ She didn’t turn to face him.

‘Do you remember?’

‘No John I don’t really remember...’

‘And then the second time I saw you, on September 12th, you didn’t remember me but I remembered you, in Starbucks and I was sitting on my own…with a house blend coffee, a large house blend coffee, and you sat at the table next to me and I saw your briefcase and knew we were working in the same building and…’ she turns, exasperated ‘Do you remember?’

‘Not really John I think…’

‘You were reading a magazine, Grazia, an article on PTS’ Her blank expression brightened a little, as if she remembered, and he felt encouraged. HOwever,before he could go on and pour out all the memories of every time they had spoken or passed in the hall, she looked back at the marquee silencingly.

‘Look, I’m gonna go. I’m going. I’m sorry’ She starts putting her cigarettes in her clutch bag, but changes her mind and hands him the packet sadly. She starts to walk away but he grabs out at her arm in desperation. She stumbles at the contact and falls onto her hands in the carpark. She lets out a small cry of distress and he tries to help her back to her feet, mortified, but the woman shrinks back and hurries back into the party, holding her bleeding palms out before her like she is carrying a tray of drinks.

John blinks at her retreating figure, absently counting the number of steps it takes her to reach the glowing tent in her heels and committing them to memory. He pauses and then pulls out a kinked Marlborough light, smoothing it and putting it into his mouth. His trusty box of matches, in which he knows there are 37 matches left, is where it should be in his tuxedo pocket and he lights the fag gingerly. He inhales deeply and tremorously and as the memories of every instance in his existence flow gently past him he recalls automatically his first ever drag of tobacco. It was a rollup, damp with a friends spittle, behind a building in school. It was June 9th 1998, 2.47 pm between maths with Mr Ross and Geography with a supply teacher who was wearing a particularly hideous pink scrunchie. The scrunchie had fallen out of her hair and onto the desk halfway through class. It was difficult, being forced to remember things like that- having a brain like a sponge for the most trivial and frustrating details. John kicked at the soggy tissue at his feet and walked off into the night.

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