“I Almost Didn’t Go to the Station” by Elena, Paris

BLOG,Love and Heartbreak August 16, 2011 10:00

topic: LOVE & HEARTBREAK medium: text

PenTales Pick of the Day

By: Tiffany J Colón

I Almost Didn’t Go to the Station brings up an important question. What are those things that make people compatible with one another? Two people who felt passionately about words and books, and yet they could not make it work together. Was it because while they were both in love with words, she was a cynic and he was a hopeless? This piece just goes to show that relationships are trickier than they may seem, and perhaps opposites really do attract.

I almost didn’t go to the station. I had been crossing the days off in my diary for weeks with a mix of excitement and the impending read you get before an exam, as if you were on a conveyor belt rolling to the edge of a cliff with no way to stop yourself being flung off. This was four years after I’d last seen him, on a cold night in May in a pub on the South Bank, a night we were already living in the cracked vinyl nostalgia world of an old country song, acting out the roles of two people who’ve decided they no longer love each other. We bought expensive wine knowing it would be the last bottle and he quoted Wordsworth on the view from Westminster Bridge and we no longer had any original words of our own. He told me he’d once thought I was the one and I said that was a myth invented to sell Valentines’ cards and I didn’t mean it.
So I left, and I stopped writing yearning adolescent poems and started writing about drug fuelled massacres and presidential elections and food riots, and almost forgot about books. He on the other hand built a fortress out of books, closed himself in an Oxford library and built dams of dry precise print to keep out the noise of the world outside like a medieval monk on a mountain top. At first he kept sending me his poems, as he had done for years while we were together, his crisp staccato words washed up like very English pebbles on a tropical beach five thousand miles away, but the words got more academic and more stilted and then he stopped sending me anything.

So I married someone else, who grew up in a house with no books and didn’t understand the pleasure we took in words. He must have known, the pictures were on the Internet, setting out a neat story with no need for words. I didn’t know if he’d seen them, he said nothing, but I still thought about him a lot. When I came back to England with another name he’d gone and anyway I didn’t stay long I kept moving on. So after hearing nothing from him for three years one day I found a message in my inbox, just a dozen words like a Victorian telegraph.

Am coming to Paris for two days STOP.
Meet me off train September 12th 8pm STOP.
Would love to buy you dinner STOP.

I started counting down the days, going over everything like a faded old photo album. The day I met him- he was teaching a writing workshop, I’d read too much Sylvia Plath and written a maudlin story about a friend who’d killed herself that he said was gothic and compelling. The day he told me he loved me- the churchyard, the warm rose, the brown vintage dress I so loved. I almost didn’t go to the station because I was so afraid I still loved him.

I did go, I lied to my husband and said I’d been called in to work late. I was early and sat down to wait, hiding behind the newspaper, itchy and fidgety, crossing and uncrossing my legs, fiddling with my hair and unable to even pretend to read. After maybe fifteen minutes I realised someone was staring at me
from across the café, a stranger, a short guy in his thirties with a straggly beard, losing his hair on top, not good looking, not ugly, just not very noticeable, wearing jeans and a black polo neck jumper. He carried on staring as if I were an optical illusion and if he concentrated enough I’d stop looking like a girl and he’d see I was actually a landscape or an animal. Eventually this made me uncomfortable enough that I got up- and it was only then I realised it was him. I walked out of the station without looking back

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