I saw my ex lover on the platform at Archway tube station today. Nothing strange, he lives in the area. We haven’t spoken or seen each other for almost 3 years but I knew sooner or later I’d bump into him. Often, arriving at the station on one of those rare blessed mornings when my skin doesn’t look yellow, my curls are in the right place and my clothes make me look taller and sexier, I wished he would be there to admire me in all my beauty. In my mind he would look at me full of regret and try to say hello but I’d kill him with a witty line and walk past him.
Of course it didn’t happen that way.
Thanks to the stupidly stormy weather we’ve been experiencing in the last 5 weeks, deciding what to wear in the morning is a nightmare. Being Italian, I can’t possibly go out in a skirt and flip flops when I know I’m going to get soaked at some point in the day. But, being Italian, I refuse to wear boots in summer – it’s against my religion. Therefore flat shoes with rubber soles are the only option – which rules out my sexy jeans that, being longer than my legs, can only be worn with heels. So today, once again, I slipped into my combat trousers. Having overslept I didn’t have time to wash my hair – a complicated process involving curl districation and several conditioners – so I tied it up in a ponytail. I also knew the only person I was going to work with was Justina, a Polish producer for Hallmark Channel, and that I would spend the morning recording in a booth smaller than my cupboard. No need for make up.
So here I am, at Archway, waiting for a Charing Cross train, in combat trousers and ponytail, sitting on a plastic bench and looking like a 13 years old with wrinkles. The word CORRECTION flashes on the platform’s display and we’re informed that the next train will be diverted via Bank. Oh joy. I open my book and start reading. After a minute I look up to check the time and there he is. Standing right next to me. I can’t see his face but I’d recognize his little bum anywhere. And his sleeveless top. And his designer jeans. He’s lost weight since last time. He’s in great shape. He looks fucking gorgeous.
And I’m wearing no make up. I have a ponytail and combat trousers.
I hide behind my book.
But curiosity is stronger than pride. I want to see his face. I want to make sure it’s not him or that, if it is him, he isn’t that attractive after all. I very slowly turn my head to the right.
As if predicting my movement he turns his back to me completely.
The train via bank arrives. I know he’s afraid I’m going to talk to him, and I know he’ll now make a little show of pretending to board the train to make me believe he’s gone. On cue, as soon as the doors open, he steps towards them, getting lost among the crowd. Oh, it’s definetely him, nobody else has that arrogant, I’m-the-coolest-and-I don’t-give-a-damn-if-you’re-dead-or-alive walk. Slow. Lush. As if he wanted to make sure everybody had noticed him before taking another step. I wish I could smack his face.
The train leaves. I know he’s still on the platform somewhere, I can feel his presence like poison in the air. I’m sure he thinks he’s lost me. Wherever he’s hiding, I’m sure he’s congratulating himself on his fabulous little trick. I can’t believe he’s so predictable, so stupid – and so scared of me.
The Charing Cross train approaches. I’m not going to end up on his same carriage, no way. So I choose a door towards the end of the platform. But it’s stuck and doesn’t open. I walk to the next door but too many people are crowding it. I have no choice but to run to the one in the middle. And find myself sitting directly in front of him.
Luckily, the train is packed. He’s wearing a cap and he pushes it over his eyes. His skin is browner than usual. Is it really him? I hide behind my book once again. At Tufnell Park an Indian family boards and stands right between us. I can see him lifting his cap a little and grabbing a magazine somebody has left behind. It’s a gossip magazine, nothing he would ever give a damn about, but he begins to read it systematically, word by word, as if his life depended on it. Where is he going to get off? Camden? Eutosn? What is he doing at 9.30am on a Charing Cross train? He’s not dressed for the office, he’s not carring a bag, he looks like he’s off to a party… An audition perhaps? In that case, I’m fucked, he’s going to stay on until we reach the West End.
More people get on and off. He’s still there. I’m still here, desperately trying to focus on my book. I hate him. I’ve never felt it so intensely before. I hate his walk, his cap and the fact that he’s hiding from me because he thinks I’m still hung up on him. After all this time. He thinks I’m stuck in the past. I hate his assumptions and his attempt to loose me on the platform. I hate the fact that he’ll never say sorry to me. And I hate myself for loving him so much once. Perhaps I’m never going to have a baby because of the time I wasted loving this self centered, arrogant man who’s too much of a coward to look at me in the eyes. I hate him for everything that’s gone wrong in my life, for everything that’s corrupted in the entire universe.
Tottenham Court Road. I get off. I don’t check if he’s still on the train but I expect he is – he’s probably going to Leicester Square, for an audition at the Spotlight or some other casting studio. I stand on the escalator. Two seconds later I realise somebody behind me is walking fast up the stairs, pushing people to get past. I don’t even need to turn. After one second he passes me by. But his rush is stopped by a group of tourists who refuse to move to the right. He’s stuck with me. Only two steps separate us on what seems like the longest escalator in the world. A tunnel leads to the ticket hall. All of a sudden, he slows down, strolling towards the barreer with a relaxed, leisurely pace, as if on a catwalk. Soon enough, I find myself right to his side, forced to walk past him. He’s swinging his head at the rythm of his ipod, making a point of looking careless but I know a part of him is terrified that I might speak to him. This is the most ridiculous thing in the world, the most ridiculous thing in history. And the saddest. I think of him when I first met him. I think of us. And I’m tempted to turn and say, “aren’t we pathetic?”
But I don’t. I keep on looking ahead, walking fast until he’s behind me and I can see the exit. On Charing Cross road, I turn right into the little allyway where the recording studio is. I don’t look back.
Who was the cooler, my friend? Who was the winner? And does it really matter?