I’d found a quiet corner of a café in the station,
an unclaimed quiet corner where I could watch,
think and watch some more, not thinking the word
“voyeur” might be mouthed; that would cloud
the issue, that’s for sure. I had it in mind just to
sit and muse on how many me’s I might get to see
should they turn their heads or decide there was time
for a quick cup of coffee or some cake and tea.
Appalling bawling, out there on the concourse –
background noise, so many laden buggies/prams –
but I heard mine, a cut above the others, survival instinct
quite distinctly rising to the challenge (noisy little bugger,
did they say?). That had to be me – no clucking, lady,
I’ll have your bloody fingers off; make your presence known,
always a good start, your future may be watching you.
Then the teenager (eyes saying nearly twenty),
plenty of everything you might have needed for
striding out, no doubts, no shouts of protest as to
suitability for whatever you wanted, save from parents,
but what did they know? Did their job, you supposed.
But listening wasn’t on with him, no bellowing oaf –
a good start, I thought. Keep it up, son! Quiet, strong.
And then the family man, nervous about his mandate
not to lose (even sight of) not even one of the kids.
Watch a bit longer, he shows some (normal, they said)
signs of stress (got to keep it all going, plates spinning)
but can’t give in, needs to win, needs to fear the blade.
But he was not made like me, that I could see, nor the thing
he thought he should be; I sense trouble ahead.
Soon after, the older (okay, old) man, eyes saying he’d
survived it all, so far, not quite understanding the hype,
the glamour, the clamour of “the experience” he’s been
told he’d be getting by leaving the car at home and
taking the train for (I bet) a family gathering (he a grandad?).
He growls: experience is seeking/finding, not some dreadful
one-way whitewash, an estate agent’s word-absurd hyperbole.
And that was the real experience of the day: to have been
me watching me, for a few minutes, from the dark corner of
the gloomy café at the back of what it always had been –
an old and shabby London terminus; more fuss than before
(the “experience”), though no real change, not that I can see –
unless ten types of coffee is now something else, is “not coffee”;
let’s have an online competition for the new name (joke!).
But I have enjoyed the watching – time for another latte?