‘In which town do I want to piss away another night of my miserable life?’
This is my only naked thought as I board this solemn train. A solemn train that waits for me against the run-down economic backdrop of corroded warehouses and abandoned articulated lorries. These forgotten utilities of industry fill the open grave of the pot-holed asphalt enclave that is the defunct industrial estate.
The car park outside the train station looks like the scrap-yard of broken souls, a final place to park your car before you jump off the face of the earth. It’s a melancholic site. The owners of all those cars have hopped on a train and fled from this miserable grey town, but how many of them will be back? The cars will patiently wait here like jilted lovers, hoping, praying that their partners will return else they will be left to rust in the acidic rain until everything has corroded into a pile of worthless, self-loathing, bitter, eternally fucked up junk.
Droplets of rain explode against the fading paintwork of the parked cars, insidiously eating away at their surfaces as the train doors systematically close in front of me. I continue to stare out of the glass and across the town that I won’t be returning to. It’s sucked too much life out of me already and left me perfunctory to its needs. Now I operate only under the irrational orders that my despondent predisposition can conjure up. I am at the mercy of cognitive afflictions, rancid bad memories that reach deep inside of me to tear away strips off my limited quota of self-worth.
I take one last look at the obscure factories in the distance, those secretive hovels where no-one ever seems to work and no-one seems to know what goes on in them, as they continue to exhale their prosaic dust clouds for people to passively smoke. The sky is always grey in this town, and yet I just know that I’ll see these buildings again. I am convinced that these shrouded cogs of industry lie on every horizon of every town shouting to the people that they are living in the poor-zone. You have to work to earn the right to be unhappy in these places.
Another docile drop-out, scrambling on his hands and knees, begging to the world to give him another chance. I’m the useless scum who licks the golden pavements clear of excrement so the aristocrats need not dirty their soles (or is that souls?). I couldn’t afford to have someone tell me about the golden lights of industry and how to have a career there-in, I never had the money to show the world I was better equipped for life by sticking a couple of letters after my name. I only know what I shouldn’t have done with my life, so isn’t that the same thing? I now know how to do everything right for I’ve only made mistakes in my life. But now I’m older (and wiser?) it’s too late to throw away more years of my life chasing broken dreams hoping that someone will say “excuse me, sir”, instead of “out of the way shithead, money coming through.”
I glide down the aisle searching for a seat to take my place in the mass exodus. There are suits everywhere, grey, black, drab and dreary. Mere extensions of what a miserable life in a grey town can do to you. Nobody smiles in the morning, nobody smiles at work, nobody smiles at home because they’re all too busy reading about sycophantic secretaries who have sucked up to the bosses and are eloping on endless trips to the Caribbean and beyond. Too many £million winners, resented by the young, because only the old people win, the ones who have no need for it or who won’t have enough days to spend the fucking loot. It’s part of some great conspiracy that leads back to those forgotten industries in the forgotten towns. Lavish the old in money so there’s less for the state to pay to keep them barely alive through the winter months. Kick them out of the jobs and get the young ones into work and off benefit. Then, when the rich octogenarians are on their deathbeds a couple of years later with a wallet still overflowing, they’ll donate their abundance of wealth to their middle-aged children so the cycle can start again.
The plebeians return daily to their work, scraping for pennies in those mysterious buildings – they’re the lucky ones. The unlucky ones, (i.e. me) the thick-shit poor just trundle down the next set of rail tracks hoping that at some point they’ll fall off on Platform 1 and into some Utopia where there’s jobs for all and money aplenty.
I find a seat on my own but my solitude is soon destroyed as an obsolete youth sits down opposite me. Six foot plus of skinhead, piercing and vulgar tattoos. The last of the rebels. I admire those different, those who don’t give a fuck about standing out and looking ridiculous (not that you’d tell it to their face). I don’t think it’s sad that he’s clinging to an era buried with time, he’s just miserable and bitter because the world has kicked him in the teeth and brandished his ideals on life ridiculous and deliberately outrageous. He’s an outcast because the world doesn’t want to reform to him. Fair play to him. Christ, I haven’t got enough hubris to go about leathering society with my DM’s and nutting with iconoclastic forehead, the austere beliefs of greyness which depress me so. Fuck, look at me, I’m just crawling away with my tail between my knees and dreaming that around the next corner it will be brighter instead of getting out there creating a ‘scene’ and flicking the mighty V to this shitty life.
No, instead, it’s around the u-bend and where next for me? The world outside is still static and wet. I can only see the concrete platform and the station’s cafe where within a handful of people sit glumly sipping steaming beverages and mulling over yesterday’s news. They are the ones sitting on a precarious knife-edge. Will they really board the next train or will the home calling of their cars in the graveyard be too strong for them? It’s too late for me. I’m locked in this train which is ready to whisk me away from all of this and hopefully away from this cesspool of degradation and rising damp, the consequences from all the tears of pity.
I have all the preconceptions of Edinburgh, Dublin and Cardiff. The stereotypes of the Taffs, the Micks and the Jock who died of starvation on a pay-as-you-leave bus. But I’ve only ever heard of these places and seen their unspectacular blobs on a map before, so how am I supposed to know whether to go there or not? I don’t want to turn into some fucking vagabond, searching for that magic patch of mushrooms under which I can sit and be protected from the fears of this world. I want a town I can call home. Home isn’t necessarily where you were born and raised, that’s your parents’ home, you had no choice as to whether you wanted to sojourn there or not. Your birthplace is forced upon you. I didn’t get the chance to tap into the cognitive knowledge of my mother whilst loafing about inside her gut and get to pre-book the place I wanted to be born. I just got dropped into this world. Why shouldn’t my hometown be Lewes, Grimsby, Falkirk or Port Talbot? Why can’t it be anywhere that I want it? I’m running from my foster-native land and God help anyone who turns and shows me the way to go back home. Home’s supposed to be this loving, comforting, familiar place which you can relate to, somewhere where you can plug your pride into the reservoir of heritage and glow with self-respect. I am taking me away because I have yet to find my real home. I don’t feel comfortable with myself anymore so it’s going to be a long, tiresome search. I’m too worn down with fears that I’ll wake up tomorrow on my deathbed, lonely and abandoned because I couldn’t be fucked to get off my sorry arse and run away. I’m no coward; I’m just rejecting what I know I hate and exploring the world to see if it’s the most depressing place or whether my soul holds that crown.
It’s a close call that one. Is it the world making my soul shit, or is it my soul making my world shit?
Three suits appear at look at the skinhead and myself with that practised rich, derivative look. I can’t see the pedigree behind their round specs, pin stripe suits and greased back hair. I can’t see anything behind their eyes in fact apart from the hollow and empty rewards that Pyrrhic victories have brought them. The maxim that money can’t buy happiness rings true here. The only thing it does buy is arrogance and greed, but you have to sell your soul to begin with by the looks of these suits. The one fiddles expectantly with his specs, waiting for me to acknowledge their presence and offer up my seat. I don’t and he coughs oh so politely. I watch curiously as the skinhead’s eyes flick towards the suits, and when he rounds his vision into my line of sight, I don’t flinch away but instead answer his empathic call for me to sit tight, stand my ground against the fuckin’ man. I idly pick at my fingernails and I hear a huff from one of the men as he shuffles off down the carriage. The skinhead then to my surprise stands up. Is he giving in? I’m not sure but he drags himself around to my side seat, trapping me against the window. His cold steely eyes never leave the two suits as they sit down opposite. I’m not sure if this is what was meant to happen. I’m sure they were supposed to fuck right out of our faces and find somewhere else to sit. The train though must be full of runaways, outcasts and suits and this is the only place left for them to sit and save their precious legs. Next to my fellow degenerate and me, the suits are stained with the putrid aroma of our impecunious miens. Sit they do so and have to slum it. The two suits look a little glum and I wonder if the third one who shuffled off down the aisle will be picking up his mobile to call them any second now.
I look round at the skinhead who sniffs loudly and turns his eyes to the window. I do likewise. They’re slumming it; I’m scumming it. Me sitting by a suit? Two at that! I would never have believed it. Instead of feeling my morals drain away with each second that passes because I am sitting next to the enemy, I claim this as a moral victory because behind their smart, unfazed top-man exteriors, I know they are hating every second.
For the first time in ages an exiguous smile infects my lips.
Maybe the class divide is falling down. Maybe we can all live in harmony, as equals instead of two sides balancing out the scales of wealth. But that’s bollocks, because then I won’t have anyone to be pissed at. No-one to moan about as I’m kicking about in the gutter.
I just know that when I’m in front of the first office tower block I encounter, and these very suits are pushing past me like I don’t exist in their busy little worlds, I just know I’ll laugh my fucking head right off through useless rage. Rage at their ignorance, rage at my inability to do anything to change my life, and whilst I’m there laughing, the suits will make more of an effort to ignore this demented degenerate hollering in their faces. My head, having fallen to the ground with derisory insanity will be hoofed about in an impromptu game of soccer between the skivvy suits and my comically dismembered body.
GOAL! Battered, bruised and one-nil down. Fuck, I’m losing again.