Stop me if you've heard this one before
8 October 2001
And this time, you are finally nudging your way into Victoria Underground station, which as usual has kept you waiting outside its gates for a good ten minutes, processing people through the tubes of tunnel and escalator like so much sausage-meat. You're wondering if there will be enough room even to hold your book at arm's length above shoulder level and squint at the small type on the train. May as well stash the newspaper in your briefcase now. No fucking way is that going to work. Not unless you can find a rotund dwarf to use as a rest.
It's a scandal. The ranks of people waiting are five deep along the whole platform and as soon as the train arrives, forward motion flattens them into rough semicircles around the opening doors. Nobody can get on unless people get off, but people can't get off because the motive force of the desire to get on throws up an irregular but impermeable barricade. There may be a ragged five seconds where some sort of passageway, or at least a slightly looser bunching of commuter flesh, is held open, but God help anyone who is still checking their bags and pockets when that evanescent grace passes. Knees, elbows, push and shove. You'll never get onto this one; there's no point even trying, so you let yourself back off slightly, gently but firmly bracing yourself against the people behind you to get a little breathing space. Which gives you a certain perspective on what happens next.
The funny part - peculiar, rather than ha-ha - comes when the doors open. Instead of the usual opposition of forces, everybody seems to be falling backwards at once. You are knocked off-balance by the unexpected wave of politeness, which is thinning out the crush enough to see
in the hole left by this set of automatic doors, and the next one, and the next one
some sort of holdall, green and bulky
with knife-wounds across the front and top.
And that's it You're out of there, turning and running, thankful for the hours in the gym which help you to push fellow travelers out of the fucking way. Twinge of guilt as you kick a girl, not more than 10 or so, out of the way, but, well.
Heavier. Bad stuff is heavier, always, surely. So going up will make it OK. Going up is safe. Unless your natty business shoes slip on the runnels of the escalator steps as you try to take them three at a time, and pushing through at the same time. The motion of the steel steps carries you up, towards the upper air, but when your throat is athwart the serrated edge and there are a good few hundred people with better footing but exactly the same idea.
Funny thing. You always thought it would be green and billowy.
Don't tell me you haven't thought about it. Or maybe you should. Maybe this is just a me thing. Maybe you live in Trondheim, and as such any potential campaign of mass terror would get sick of asking for directions and fuck off home in a strop. Possibly I just need to stop and get a little perspective. More dangerous crossing the road. Which I do anyway, so thanks a lot for those sleepness nights.
Sudden, clean and alone, or with time and the company of those you love? She's been holding his hand tightly, listening to the cracks spreading through the concrete supports, spider-webbing good, solid cuboids into abstract art. She wants to time this right.
The building screams.
"Before it happens, I want you to know....I've been sleeping with John."
He wipes a thread of blood from the shallow cut in his forehead out of his right eye, almost distractedly, already instinctively using the hand without the broken finger.
"I don't forgive you."
The sky falls in while she is trying to think of a reply.
Born-again Christians with bumper stickers - "millions now living will never die". Cool. Unfortunately, I checked it out, and what they mean is that their death will be preempted by the end of the world. I'm sort of hoping we don't get to the end of the world stage, myself.
I was holding out for indestructible suits of life-support armour, like Maniac 5 only more deeply religious, in which case I would have converted like a shot. The idea of a fleet of Iron Men of God patrolling the skies had a certain comfort factor. Angels above us, but not too far above.
But no luck. At a pinch we can use them as sandbags or food, and that's your lot.
And yes, incidentally, I do know that it's ignoble and cowardly and pusillanimous, but I'll swap you for a decent night's sleep.
Stopping to light a cigarette, you suddenly feel something catch in your throat. Something tells you it wouldn't be a good idea to cough it clear. There's a taste at the back of your mouth like steak, or liver. When the police interview possible witnesses, nobody will have seen anything. Many will comment that you should really have been a bit more careful, dressed like that in times like these. Noone seems to be in a position to point out the ironic fact that you're not even a fucking Muslim.