It was a cold January morning. I reviewed the people surrounding me on the almost empty train. The East London line. The line where everyone always seems a little more relaxed. The open space certainly feels less intrusive. You gain a sense of freedom pacing down the interlinked carriages. Here I feel an overwhelming urge to march down. I want people to feel slightly uneasy as my bodyweight comes at them full pelt. Guilt escapes from their skin as you draw closer. They’ve committed a crime. And no matter how big or how small, everyone’s always guilty. Everyone thinks the march is for them. That you’re coming for them. But you’re not. You’re just marching. Because it feels good.
The obese woman opposite me flicked the water from herself. She didn’t have an umbrella. Unlike me, she didn’t predict the watery content the sky would unleash. I was dry and I had marched. I was winning. Two-nil.
My destination arrived just as I finished stuffing my face with some sort of breaded food – much to the dismay of the woman opposite whose hungry eyes bore holes into my breakfast. I stepped off the train and continued to march towards the Underground platform. This march didn’t feel quite as satisfactory. It didn’t have the bounce the train carriages give you. But still, it was effective in terms of getting around. Very efficient. Something the military could implement. But who am I if suddenly I provide weapons of war? I decide to keep the march for myself. For the power of good.
The underground – or as more sophisticated people like myself prefer to call it; The Tube – is always a less exciting prospect. Armpits find their way to your face, feet awkwardly step on one another and any smile is met with a public damnation. But still, life is good. Until; Oh no! My umbrella! Where’s my fucking umbrella?!
It was too late. The doors were closed. Thoughts of my canvassed friend pinged through my mind. I was bubbling with anxiety inside. How had this happened? On numerous occasions whilst very intoxicated I had managed to return umbrella in hand. And now, when I’m sober, I go and lose the damn thing. Again I give thought to whether my life would be better off if I was drunk all the time. Quickly my brain dismisses this notion. Marching! If I hadn’t had been so consumed with the art of marching, then perhaps I would have been a better carer. I was confused and somewhat saddened.
I stared into space, and inhaled a breath the size of Norway. The world around me disappeared as my anxious thoughts turned into that of acceptance. It’s gone I told myself. Let it go. It was its time. And I was right. It was time. Like all the other umbrellas that came into my life, I didn’t buy it. No one buys umbrellas. You just find them. Sometimes they’re shit, sometimes they’re shit hot. Someone had it before me. Someone will have it after me. And so on, and so on until rain doesn’t exist anymore.
This one was special. It was probably the highest quality umbrella I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, with its pump-action mechanism and beige skin it was the perfect size. Its handle I would hold as if it was a Tommy Gun. “PEOW! PEOW!” noises I would make as I chased strangers round the park. A real man’s umbrella. An umbrella that said ‘Rain if you dare, for I will destroy you and any precipitation that you send my way!’ None of this blowing inside out or having silly patterns. No, this was a proper piece of kit.
And now? Now it was gone.
A friend once told me; “The good thing about umbrellas, is that they keep on giving”.
I thought about my little friend, abandoned on the London Overground service to Dalston Junction. I wondered where it had started its journey and how many years ago. I wondered how many people before me had gone through the same emotions with the same piece of kit. Maybe out there somewhere you’ll find a group meeting for previous owners who get together and grieve.
When I close my eyes I see that umbrella on that train, waiting to meet its new owner. To continue its purpose. Its life journey. Its destiny.
And I wish it luck. I’ll miss the little bastard, but I wish it luck.
I just hope the fat bird opposite didn’t eat you.