The Sunday Gazette January 17th 1995
PAGE 1, REASONS TO TRAVEL LATE AT NIGHT
You like being in public when the public aren’t in. A rare certainty in this life is that when other people come in, they will close the accordion you had opened of yourself shut again. Train times to avoid: lunchtime, post-concert hours, good weather.
Boris takes the 10pm train up to Leeds like a passage of light. The universe or Peggy was telling him, wrap yourself around my handlebars. What is the saying, hoisted by your own handlebar? Hanged by your own halter, or something. There are white roses wrapped around his bicycle basket. It occurs to him he hasn’t eaten in three months; he was hiding out in a Muslim boarding house in Shoreditch where the other residents weren’t eating according to when the moon moves. He nearly fitted in — they even gave him his own prayer mat, and though he never used it, he knew that if he lay down on it vertically, he would be able to align his lips and ankles perfectly with the past. Or was it that he would be able to play Mozart’s sonata in C Major, no, that somebody would sit up in their sleep and understand him perfectly.
Sil sitting opposite is on her way to the school reunion. PAGE 9: To reunite, verb. Vulgar concept in the first place, people should just fall into each other like archaeology if they need to, in thunderstorms and Egyptian diner bathrooms, no need for excuses. After bumping into family friends on her way to the station, “yes yes yes so happy yes it’s all so good I’m practically dead it’s so good”, she’d looked in her pockets and found a note she’d written to herself in her sleep saying ‘When i start going blind just going to tape a diamond over each eye’.
The girl sitting opposite Boris is wearing red shoes which look like she cut them out of a storybook, he likes them. The newspaper she’s reading is upside down. Boris worries about the newspaper they use to wrap the fish and chips. He worries about eighty-year-old women who are smaller than the gardens they need to tend. Ah, this is what the world is to him: a garden too big for him to tend. When he looks at her she reads her newspaper, so he sits back and says to no one in particular: “A mountain is a mountain.”
He once read a story about a French orchestra who were trying to climb Everest, and their music kept getting louder and louder, but it was never very clear whether it was Everest the famous landform or Everest an idea, and by the end the noise was chipping parts of the mountain off. He tried explaining this to Peggy but she said, “A mountain is a mountain.” So he took her sentence and said it again: “A mountain is a mountain.”
PAGE! 17! You know those paper games! Where you fold the sheet x times and cut away at precise edges? And then you unfold and watch it accordion out into five identical snowflakes or animals or girls holding hands, well I unfolded me from the secret triangles of myself and found five consecutive summer holidays with me in a warm darkened room. Boris puts his hands in his coat pockets as if to say, I know! I stay up in my paper hat and think about all the books there aren’t room for in all the travel bags in the world! Nothing is ever big enough to hide my hands!
Sil looks at the sign that says No Music, Please, This is a Quiet Carriage.
He remembers cutting out the sum of everything he had ever touched, handing it to someone who gave it back to him folded into an origami crane. They said, Not many things are small enough to fit in someone’s hand. Boris thought, I have finally learnt the secret to fitting in. He thinks, now, of the couple on the bus, both wrapped in scarves, a wonderfully overweight man in a stormy coat with the most astonishing red lips. People who look like they’re running from something, he loves them the most. The girl sitting opposite him is tipping her head on one side, like a man when he wants to tip out the flowers he had kept in his hat just in case, as if to say, “I know. I always keep a sandwich in the lining of my bag. White bread, already cut into four quarters, like a diagram of the moon.” The photo developing woman thought Sil was crazy because she kept coming back to the shop at ten minute intervals to ask if her photos were done yet. The balance of your life ends up depending on silly, un-see-able things like phosphate stars.
When Boris next looks at red shoes girl, she is tearing the edge of her paper into diamonds that fall nowhere. When he leaves for the refreshments car to get a cup of coffee, the grandness is pouring out of his ears like oceans.