Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mercer Street

‘Surely,’ I think to myself, ‘If you walk down the same street enough times, the memory fades, supplanted by new experiences, new moments to treasure, memories that don’t tug at my heart and remind me of him.’ But it hasn’t happened yet. This morning I passed an old lady, stepping out of my path so she didn’t have to. She looked up at me from under her headscarf and smiled a smile that was no bribe to sweeten a lonely, unspoken request for conversation. Neither did her eyes contain surreptitious need, in fact she asked nothing, just acknowledged my courtesy and in the smile I returned, our eyes met and a simple connection briefly formed.

I continued walking and hoped, when I reached her age, that I, also, would have managed my needs and lived a life that left me free to meet the gaze of strangers benevolently.

I recall that smile, that train of thought, as I walk down the street later that day but at the end of it, there he is, his memory constant in a way our relationship never was. ‘Surely,’ I think to myself, ‘If I walk down this street enough times…’

Sunday, 14 March 2010


I see the same woman on the train every morning. Her hair is greying, cut in a style, I suspect, she has worn since the 1980's, a 'Lady Diana' it used to be called. She doesn't wear make-up. Her clothes are plain; navy or black jacket and a series of inoffensive, pastel-coloured tops. I can't see the bottom half of her as she sits in her train seat, but I expect her shoes are sensible and her skirts fall below the knee. She often wears a garish brooch - a bright gold and diamanté affair with a cat sitting in a crescent moon. It is kitsch, vulgar even.

The woman's pale eyes are kind. Sometimes she reads a book. Other times, she listens to an old-fashioned CD Walkman and stares out of the window. But her handbag is always on her lap. The handbag is extraordinary; a black leather confection of shiny buckles and leather tassels almost entirely covered in metal studs. It looks so out of place on her lap, a beacon of dark, fetishistic style. I wonder if it was a present, or if she bought it herself, and if she did, what thought process, what desire led her to choose that bag. Is it her totem, is it her truth, is it her aspiration? Nothing in her impassive face offers any clue, but every morning, I wonder.


St. Martin's Lane is a one-way street. I'm walking in the same direction as the traffic, hurrying along the gutter, keen to get home. I feel the loud, heavy bass as much as hear it pumping from the stereo of a car behind me. The music is aggressive - overtly masculine, hip-hop - and I turn to look behind me, expecting a large black SUV with tinted windows and personalised number plates. Instead of the cliché, a small silver Smart car pulls into a parking space, a bespectacled white guy behind the wheel, and I laugh out loud at the disparity.