Just another weekend in London
A short story from Brexit Britain...
Hours had passed since Kulane boarded the train, and he was starting to feel restless. He had always tolerated long commutes in the past, yet this journey seemed to continue forever. It was a noxious and noisy place; the blare of rolling steel was accompanied by roaring air brakes and jolts of electricity every five minutes or so. Kulane tried to take a nap, but whenever he closed his eyes, he would be startled by what sounded like a washing machine equipped with a car engine. The only thing he could do was sit around and watch as the world outside passed by.
Most of the chairs in the carriage were empty, filling the deserted train with an eerie loneliness. Maybe that was why he felt so comforted the moment the train came out of the tunnel. He could pull out his phone and get some desperately needed distraction. From there, it didn’t take long until the speaker voice announced his station.
“This is Greenford…” “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”
“Change here for National Rail. This is a Central line train to West Ruislip”.
He looked out the window while waiting for the doors to open, and saw that the naked trees were sunbathing. It appeared as though they wouldn’t have to wait that much longer for spring to clothe them. A pleasant day prevailed and the onset of spring was fast approaching. A million thoughts rushed through Kulane’s mind as he was leaving the carriage, chief among them the sad melody of the violin performer he encountered at Liverpool Street Station.
"It's such a small instrument, yet it plays such marvelous melodies", he remarked to himself. His attention was drawn to it from a distance as he waited on the moving stairs to reach the platform. So he stopped and listened for a few minutes when he reached him, and even recorded parts of the play with his phone. The sad melody deeply enchanted him, and he wondered why he didn't throw a few coins into the hat.
Yet despite the stings of melancholy, Kulane couldn’t help but smile as he exited the carriage, taking in the warmth of the sun and fresh air. After a moment of gazing up at the sun-bathing trees, he savoured a deep breath while walking to the station’s entrance. A sense of normality seemed to be returning slowly but surely, as more and more people gathered at the entrance. He hadn't seen Greenford station that crowded since Covid began. There were fewer and fewer people wearing masks, and he was generally pleased to be greeted by the sun.
When he spotted his old friend from the guard booth, Kulane's smile grew wider. It was good to see a familiar face after all that had happened. He slightly lowered his face mask to be recognised.
"Hey dude, long time no see!" Kulane called out.
The guard waved back. "Yeah, it's been a while man! You went to East?"
Kulane nodded approvingly. "I went to visit the family in Essex bro. I'm glad to see things are getting back to normal."
"Yeah, it's been a rough few years," the guard remarked, "but at least we're starting to get back on our feet."
“Alright boss, see you around soon!” Kulane cheered before walking out the gate towards the roundabout.
Overcome by enthusiasm, he didn’t even notice that he still had his airpods on when he pulled off the mask from his face. The airpods fell and were soon buried under a blue Toyota parked on the roundabout in front of the station. Kulane violently struck his right thigh in distress.“Why does this happen now, when the day almost went by without major Ls”, he mumbled in a tone of frustration.
Kulane bought the airpods from an Apple store a short while ago, despite his initial skepticism about their sound quality. All that was left now, however, was the wireless charging case in the pocket of his jacket. He repeatedly cursed himself for not paying more attention and wondered how people could regard him as intelligent when he had a habit of making dumb mistakes.
He hesitated to call for help at first, but then realised that he didn’t have much of a choice. Looking around in hopes of making eye contact with the car owner, Kulane stared into the bakery and several other shops nearby. No one seemed to care about the distressed look on his face, and the pedestrians, joggers, as well as the shop owners simply ignored him. Just as Kulane was about to give up and go home, he got an idea that gave him a glimmer of hope. He unbuckled his thick leather belt and knelt down in front of the Toyota to use it as a rope.
As he was throwing around his belt underneath the car like a cowboy trying to catch a cow, he heard voices behind him mocking instead of helping. “Look at this cunt kneeling in front of a car, hehe!” one of them said. The other laughed before responding, "He's probably doing his Allah business here, hahaha!" Kulane paid no attention to them and assumed they were the joggers he saw earlier.
His determination to retrieve the airpods from beneath the Toyota was unwavering; and after several failed attempts and frustrating searching, the airpods were finally back in his possession. It made him feel relieved not to have to part ways with his brand new sound system. Slightly embarrassed, Kulane got up to brush off the dirt from his jeans. It was time to head home.
When he reached the bridge over the Grand Union Canal, a stunning sunset started to cast its spell over the entire scenery. New waterfront developments such as Greenford Quay were turning the charming valley into a cityscape. He paused for a moment, even though he had to hurry home for sundown prayers. Kulane played the melody from the street performer earlier and pondered in solitude for a while.
It made him wonder why he cared so much about what others thought of him. Why did it matter if he wasn’t rich enough not to have to kneel before a car? Why was it a problem to be clumsy sometimes? “Doesn’t that make us human?” he questioned.
A decade earlier, things were quite similar. Kulane was a postgraduate student at the time, looking to make big money like the bankers he admired in central London. All he earnestly dreamt about was to never have to wear a heavy rucksack again, and to never have to take public transport. Yet here he was recovering from a long train journey: staring at the sundown over a canal, just like he used to do by the river Thames. A tear rolled down his cheek while he bade farewell to his dreams, accepting what has become of him. Just another weekend in London…