I waited, lungs heavy, always a little short of breath. The mechanical counter of the station clock seemed to slow with each minute that the train was delayed, forcing itself over with an almost palpable effort. I needed to feel this tightness ease. As I wrote, each stab at the page was a tiny victory, a triumphalist narrative sounded as I composed pretentious metaphors about the pen and the sword, momentarily conquering “it all”. Empty stomach arguing with a full mind. Restlessly picking at my fingernails. Hands shaking for the cigarette I was about to deny myself.

The train sauntered into the station, oblivious to the fact that I was running late already. I gave it the finger, concealing the gesture behind my hand so as not to offend anyone. A horrible squeal and then, as always, that funny limbo moment when the doors haven’t yet opened and everything sits still for a second. Finally, achingly, my head is resting against a condensation-frosted window and I’m holding my breath through every tunnel, hoping that if I make it through without breathing, things will go according to plan.

20 minutes later I’m sprinting down a crooked side-street, making two left turns before I force myself to slow, draping an air of casual lateness around my shoulders. He’s there, predictably, seated at the second booth to the end, a pint of some fancy-ass craft ale (no doubt). There’s a smile struggling to announce itself and finally, the long-awaited: ‘bit late aren’t you?’.


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