Friday, July 20, 2007

Tales from London Transport no 2

Coming home late from Ealing Broadway last night was annoying as hell yet strangely touching.

Annoying as hell because the journey took twice as long as it should have done, I became desperate for the loo and had to resort to using scuzzy station loos (sometimes I am very grateful that I currently carry antibacterial hand gel around in my handbag) and by the time I eventually got to Wimbledon the overland had stopped and I ended up having to get a cab home anyway.

Strangely touching because a complete stranger kissed me. I was being gently heckled by an old Irish drunk opposite me. I was knitting and he thought this was brilliantly clever and decided to ask all the other girls in the carriage if they could knit. Given I'd only started knitting again for the first time since I was 10 years old two weeks ago, I felt a little fraudulent. When the woman next to me admitted to the Irishman that she hadn't knitted since childhood I admitted this to her, explaining that I was knitting a hat to replace my temporary loss of hair. Turned out her aunt had recently got the all-clear after going through the same thing.

The drunk got off at the next stop but we chatted all the way down the line. When she and her boyfriend got off at East Putney she wished me luck, hovered for a moment indecisively, then leant forward and gave me a sudden kiss on the cheek.

I was embarrassed in that English way, and said something stupid like "Thank you, I'll see you soon". (When, exactly, I wondered after the words had left my mouth?)

But it was strangely touching. It is bizarre how this disease has the capacity to create such intimacy and empathy among strangers.

I remember feeling the same way, the day of diagnosis, when the lady who I'd been talking to earlier who had turned 70 that day, emerged with teary eyes from the nurse's room after getting her news. She looked so lost. I had an inkling of what she was going through (being thirty minutes ahead of her in the process) but I couldn't put it into words. I just remember thinking how unfair it was for her to have the disease, especially as it was her birthday. All I could do was give her a big hug.

And now I'm getting hugs and kisses from strangers on tubes.

I'm just glad it was the nice, sober girl and not the mad, Irish drunk who took pity on me.

Thank you, East Putney lady...

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