Transformation in London

by nat213

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages

(Dylan Thomas)


The code to the combination lock on the customer toilet door is given to customers only. It is printed on the bottom of their receipts for coffee. It is not regenerated daily or weekly for that matter. The message is clear, if want to fix in our toilet you’d better have a good memory or buy some coffee first. Too wasted to remember the code? To broke to buy coffee? Denied. I wait for my dealer’s ’15 minutes’ to be up drinking coffee and drafting lines to pass the time. My anticipation is aimless and frantic like a lost dog trailing a limp lead. At the table ahead of me curly-haired men murmur foreign words in the space above their empty espresso cups. Probably Turkish. The background noise of the busy coffee house suddenly gets overpowering. I had forgotten I was ill with a fever. Sweat on my pale brow. That was actually today’s excuse for getting high, so I can feel better. I watch a non-paying customer enter the toilets with the waitress keying in the code for her. A mild sense of indignation arises, passes. Outside nimble police cars shoot by wailing neon blue. I hope they are not on their way to intercept my drugs. The song from Intervention twangs through the coffee shop stereo. I call my dealer and his phone is off. My coffee tastes bitter. I am so close. I pray silently to the patron saint of smackheads. There is always the chance he has failed to score and turned his phone off rather than have to tell his addled clientele there will be no drugs tonight. It’s happened before. I call back and he answers. Relief. 10 minutes later I re-enter the coffee shop holding my drugs like a child holds onto a balloon on a windy day. The toilet code is on my receipt. I key in the code. Engaged. The constipated bitch occupying the toilet incurs wrathful thoughts. I sit and wait for her to be done. I notice an empty cooker, soiled filter and needle packet on the floor of the cubical when I enter. Says it all really.


On my way home I draft these lines – my consciousness fraying and unraveling. My handwriting seems much nicer now. On my way to my connecting train a pretty Somali woman (there is no other type) drops her shopping bag. I swoop in and return it to her grasp. She returns my smile. I sit in the last carriage which tends to be the emptiest. The worst carriages on the London Underground are the ones that are empty when you get on but are the nearest to the entrance to the platform. So every late-comer rushes straight into the nearest carriage so as not to miss the train. ‘The Running Carriage’ is always disproportionately full. I remove my coat and bag and place them on the empty seat next to me hoping the train does not get busy enough to render that decision unjustifiable. The train’s heating is powered to offset a much harsher climate than this mild evening. I relax and itch – a side effect of the H. Apart from the scratching not a lot betrays my illegal state of mind, just another Leisure Pirate riding a train, happy to write everything and nothing. Through my pleasure-fogged head I notice a pair of shoes to my left; slightly high-heeled, light purple with glitter, tanned skin above a small ribbon above a pointed toe. Her face is hidden by a partition so all I see is a slim body leaning backwards. A whisper of lust passes through my groin. I fantasize about showing her these lines and her falling in love with me. On my right a man answers his phone with a short burst of foreign syllables like machine gun fire. My pen-hand starts to ache but I love my sullen art – ah, who could ever name it better? I am not looking forward to returning home. I am bound to end up smoking crack which I will cook from the baggy of coke in my draw. But that will be then. In the meantime I have the simple joy of writing words, watching rush-hour suits, hooded youth and newspaper rustlers. Cruel, sweet London passing by.