Monday, August 04, 2008

A Tribute to Blanche DuBois (Updated)

Thursday lunchtime. Tottenham Court Road.

"I can't do this anymore." My phone slid against my hot, wet cheek. "I just... I can't."

I squeezed my eyes closed as a torrent of fresh tears rushed from them. Leaning up against the cool concrete of a building I listened to my sister's voice and tried to calm down. I pushed my free hand into my chest to try to let my lungs fill with air, but, as so with so many times recently, it did not help.


I willed myself to relax, silently pleading with the tears to stop and the panic to subside. Crouching down, I told my sister I had to go and put the phone back in my bag. I put my swollen face into my shaking hands and despaired. The band around my chest tightened, maliciously refusing to allow any more air to cool my burning lungs. Anxiety settled on me like a lead cloak and frantic worry poked sticky fingers into every part of my brain.

Just breathe.

I stood up again, aware of the gazes of those walking by, eyes flicking inquisitively over my painfully red face and trembling hands. As I thought about going back to the office, about my house and money situations, about everything, I let go and began to break down again.

Please make it stop.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up into the concerned face of a blonde woman holding a packet of tissues.

"You alright mate?" she said, warmly. "Have a tissue."

I took one and managed to thank her with a small and embarrassingly piteous sob.

She didn't move away.

"Take the packet" she added, and I hesitated. "Go on, I've got more. Take it."

I did, and she touched my shoulder again.

"It'll be alright, don't worry." She smiled and walked away.

I clutched my tissue in my hand and put the packet in my bag. Taking another breath I turned, and walked off in the opposite direction.

Friday morning, King's Cross Station.

"So, I got on the train, but completely forgot that my Oyster card has run out and needs re-charging."

The ticket inspector looked at me askance.

"So you don't have a valid ticket?"

"Um. No. I went to see my parents last night and got a ticket this morning to West Hampstead because I have a zones one and two Oyster but I forgot that it runs out on Fridays so... No. I don't."

He took my ticket from me and peered at it. He shook his head slowly, and reached to the pocket of his shirt for his notebook and pen. I jumped, the thought of a £20 fine crashing into my brain.

"Oh! No. Please. Please don't give me a ticket. Please. I have had the worst week ever and I... please."

The hot tears sprang to my eyes as they had been doing with alacrity for the last five days. He looked up from his pad, eyebrows raised.

"What happened to you?" he asked, smiling at the passion of my plea.

I stuttered. "Well... I just... I had a... Um..." I put a hand on my chest as the air slowed to a trickle again.

"Hey" he said. "Don't worry. It's OK."

Touching his card to the reader he opened the gates and waved me through.

"Have a good day." he called after me as I walked away.

Friday night. A train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly.

"This train is due to arrive in Manchester Piccadilly at 11.29pm."

I looked down at a text message on my phone.

"Sorry baby, I won't be getting in from Liverpool until 12.30. Can you find somewhere to wait? Xx

The two women opposite me watched me as I screwed up my nose in consternation.

"What did he say?" one of them asked.

"Oh, well. I've got about an hour to kill."

The prospect of hanging out delinquently in the echoing train station as the clock clicked past midnight was not an appealing one.

I had been chatting with the women since we had left Euston a couple of hours earlier. One of them was getting married, and they had been to London for a few days to shop for shoes. They were returning triumphant and had been entertaining me with tales of their contrasting shopping experience.

"Before we went to Sloane Square we took ages deciding what outfits to wear! We even gave ourselves pedicures. We couldn't face the thought of a Pretty Woman moment!"

The other woman giggled. "Big mistake! HUGE!" she chimed in, and I laughed as well.

"Then we went to Primark..."

"Oh God" I said, grimacing. "Primark on Oxford Street is hell."

" was like everyone was animals! Stuff all over the place and people everywhere! We just stocked up on cheap tops and got out of there!"

I had told them that I was going to Manchester to see my boyfriend, but that he was getting a train back from Liverpool that night so I might have to wait somewhere. They were concerned, and their brows furrowed as they tried to think of places I could wait.

"It's fine" I protested. "I'll wait in the station. There are people about."

This was dismissed as a bad idea, and they continued making suggestions. Maybe a hotel bar? Maybe somewhere in town. Maybe a restaurant.

One of them leant across the table and patted my hand. "Don't worry" she said. "It'll be alright. An hour isn't long."

The train eventually heaved into the destination station. My phone rang as I was attempting to extricate my bag from the rack without damaging myself too severely.

"Hey, I've just arrived! Where can I go?"

Ben dismissed the idea of waiting in the station as well, and suggested a bar near his house in which I could wait. Reassured, I got off the train to find the two women waiting for me.

"What did he say? Where will you wait?"

I told them and they looked at each other and nodded. "You'll be fine there. You're alright, yes?"

I was, and told them so. They headed to collect their car as I called out my thank yous. I turned and headed to find a taxi.

I'm not saying you can always rely on it. Sometimes, though, the kindness of strangers seems like the most magical thing in the world.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the myspace of the production company I have been doing some singing with. (My hyperlink is not working so instead do some cutting and some pasting: The track I am on is called Half Full, and Away Days as well. I am responsible for the vocals, meldody and lyrics. It was written to spec, so I would be interested to hear comments.


Anonymous impish said...

a hundred little kisses mr léonie head

1:45 pm

Blogger Jaywalker said...

Oh darling. That sounds like a big old bag of badness. Thank goodness people were nice. Would you like me to carve something out of a marrow and put it on my blog to cheer you up? What would you like me to carve?

2:03 pm

Blogger Curly said...

Jaywalker - Carve a boat! It would be called a Marrow Boat, probably. Léonie could go around telling people that she has a Marrow Boat, they'd try to correct her but she'd give them a dressing down for their ignorance.

I actually do rely on the kindness of strangers, without them I wouldn't go anywhere or get anything done. I hope you're okay, I found myself wondering how you were last week, funny.

2:40 pm

Blogger Penguinissimo said...

Sort of restores your faith in humanity...

4:05 pm

Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Yes, indeed. I was rammed into the central reservation of the A3 at some horrific speed last week and a guy stopped, made sure that I was OK, gave me his card and offered to be a witness, helped me over to the hard shoulder, etc. and was generally very nice.

I felt ridiculously grateful. Especially as only a few minutes earlier I had been thinking, "oh fuck! I'm dead..."


4:31 pm

Anonymous nuttycow said...

Ah Leonie... sorry it's been a bit rubbish recently. But yes, there are still some nice people out there. And thank God for it.

4:47 pm

Blogger Badass Geek said...

Sounds like you have some awfully nice strangers where you live.

4:56 pm

Blogger Jaywalker said...

Hmm, Curly,

Whilst I like the marrow boat idea, especially with my viking origins, but I think it might be a bit too easy. I was thinking some kind of animal. A pony might be challenging though, but we'll let the lovely Léonie decide...

5:16 pm

Blogger justme said...

Goodness. Well if I had seen you on Tot Crt Road (which is entirely possible as I work in Great Russell Street) I would have given you tissues too! Hope that the kindness has balanced out the bad week a little and that you are having a better time now.

6:09 pm

Blogger Clarissa said...

After a rainbowesque pony of course!

8:41 pm

Blogger Léonie said...

Impish - And to you pony. See you next week! xxx

JW - I am sort of panicking about this because it's like someone just offered to grant me my greatest wish and I cannot for the life of me think what that might be. A pony, of course, would be number one choice, but I do understand that this might prove tricky, as might a kitten. I do not like guinea pigs (I do not trust their eyes) but that would be an easy one. Maybe a meercat? Or a fleet of angry sparrows?

Curly - Marrow boat is a good idea, but I agree that an animal fashioned from a marrow would be quite the thing.
Funny that you were wondering how I was. I wasn't good. I am better now. Thank you x

Penguinissimo - Yes, it does. It's a good feeling.

DK - God, that sounds horrific. Were you alright? I mean, I am going to go ahead and assume you're not dead (although I heard they do have great WIFI in Hades), but I hope you were quite a bit better than dead. That was good of that man, so many people would have just driven by. In the heat of stranger-kindness moments it makes you want to kiss them and be their friends forever, doesn't it? It's quite fortunate that we don't all go around doing that, though.

9:26 am

Blogger Léonie said...

NC - It has been a bit rubbish, but it's getting better. Some people just make life better (I am not talking exclusively about strangers here, obviously).

BG - The irony of that is that London is reputed to be one of the least friendly cities in the world. People keep themselves to themselves as a general rule (if we went around trying to befriend everyone you'd end up potentially having to be nice to 7 million people a day, and that just sounds exhausting) but if there is a need for it people are actually very kind to one another.

Jaywalker - Please expand on your viking origins claim.

Just Me - Thank you. It would have been weird if it had been you and then you had read this and thought, oh my God, that was me! Such things do not really happen, though, of course.

Clarissa - Rainbowesque pony is the best phrase in the world. And yes, they're pretty magical too.

9:40 am

Blogger Jaywalker said...

Hello darling,

I have a real live artist coming round tonight and TWO marrows, so maybe I will give her lots of mojitos and a marrow and ask her to produce a pony. I will do the meerkat if you like. Anything sort of oval would be easy, like a mole or a whale or a sausage dog.

Viking origins. Ok, I lied, but I come from York where there are lots and lots and lots of viking reenacters in unfortunate hessian garments drinking mead.

People - if you too wish to carve vegetable animals, come to my virtual village fête at . There will be certificates and rosettes!

10:32 am

Blogger Jaywalker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:34 am

Blogger Ys said...

Wow this the first time I've heard your voice: it's so pretty :) I adore it! It wasn't what I was expecting at all; I don't know what I was expecting but... anyway it's lovely :) The song's good too ;)

1:27 pm

Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Yes, I'm fine, cheers. I have been waiting for the delayed shock but I just don't think that it's going to kick in.

It may have been masked by my irritation...!


P.S. Half-Full's a nice track and that's a braw voice you have there: somewhere between Jan Johnston and the lass out of Morcheeba.

10:19 pm

Blogger Miss Devylish said...

Aww.. baby girl.. I'm so glad there were others to be there when you needed a little extra support. We all have those days where you just can't take anymore.. I'm glad you got thru it.. That pony I sent ages ago must be on a very very slow boat.. I really need to check on that. xoxo

6:25 am

Blogger Jaywalker said...

Must. see. robopony.
That is all.

9:10 pm


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