The Eyes have It.
The Underground rammed to capacity with commuters, hurrying home to family, loved ones or just the comfort of a singleton apartment, was even more of a minefield to negotiate this evening. Several times I had to dodge large brash, flashy bouquets, that screamed ‘Look at me, I have someone special in my life and you are loser.’ By the time I emerged onto the platform to catch the connecting overground train from Kings Cross to Darlington, the sight of a mangy dog urinating on his drunken owner did little to alleviate my mood. Fortunately for me, I would be making the rest of journey up in first class, away from the vulgarity of Valentine’s Day and the banal mentality of the people who subscribed to it.
Once inside the first class compartment, my eyes scanned along the overhead rack for my seat number and came to rest on a heart-shaped helium filled balloon. The woman attached to it filled the seat with her ample behind and her eyes, caked with layer upon layer of mascara, double blinked at me as I slung myself into the seat opposite her.
‘Why people become so hung up with making such loud statements of love, I’ll never know’ I said, shaking out my copy of the Telegraph so that I could hide behind it and not have to look her sucked in face.
Ten minutes later, the Trolley Dolly, as I like to call them, arrived and I ordered orange juice and coffee.
‘Are you okay Madam, can I get you something?’ I heard her ask and sniggered when the reply came back, in a thick northern accent, ‘Just a Coke please.’
Reaching for my coffee, I felt her nail polished fingertips brush against the side of my hand.
‘I’m sorry, I was trying get to the napkin,’ she said quietly.
She flinched as I flicked back the corner of my newspaper to show my disdain, her face awash with black streaks running from her eye sockets. Beside her, lay a pile of balled tissues.
‘Be my guest.’ I said.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said, removing the last cosmetic traces from her lined face, ‘but, it’s just that the balloon is for my daughter, she was born on Valentine’s Day, you see. She really loved all of this. She said that was so nice to see people all around her celebrating the miracle that love can bring. She said it her feel special.’
‘Oh, and you’ve been to see her today?’ I said, in attempt to change the subject, silently hoping that she wouldn’t witter on about her wonderful daughter.
‘No, somebody said my husband was down there. A year ago he ran off, he said he couldn’t cope with living with me anymore.’
She was crying again and fumbling in her oversized bag, all the while the balloon bobbing overhead.
I took my Harrods monogrammed handkerchief from my inside breast pocket, leant forward and with one hand tilted her chin and with the other, gently dabbed at her face. And that’s when I noticed the intense blueness of her eyes, the intense blueness that had been obliterated by the panda rings.
‘Thank-you, you’re so kind.’ she said.
‘Not at all.’ I replied, placing the handkerchief in front of her.
She took it and noisily blew her nose.
‘ You keep it, you might need it again.’
‘Well, okay but if you give me your address I’ll wash it and send it back to you in the post.’
‘No, that’s okay I have many more like it. It’s no problem, no problem at all.’
I watched as it slid out of sight, below the neckline of her black sweater and under the lace edge of her brassiere and I have to admit I liked what I saw. I’ve always had a penchant for bosoms. Big ones, small ones, pert ones, pendulous ones, even bee sting bumps, there’s something about a bosom a man can call home.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘I feel I’ve been rather crass, let me buy you a glass of wine. It’s obvious you’ve had a trying day, as I have. Tell you what, let’s make it a bottle and make the most of each other’s company.’
She opened her lipstick stained mouth to say something and again, I leaned forward and placed two fingers on her lips.
It seemed to do the trick and I called out to Miss Trolley Dolly, standing in her cabin. ‘When you’re ready, a bottle of the finest of whatever East Coast Rail carries.’
For the rest of the journey, I entertained her with little anecdotes, small talk about the political climate, which of course, she didn’t understand. However, she did say, she felt that the rights of animals were more important than humans.
‘Why do you think like that?’ I asked.
‘Because all my life, I have owned dogs, they give you so much love and loyalty. They don’t care what you look like, or do a runner when you’re having a bad time. They accept you for who you are.’
When I told her about the drunk and his dog on the platform, those blue eyes of hers looked like the deep waters of the Mediterranean reflecting sunbeams, and she smiled.
‘There you go, she said, ‘my point exactly and that is why, whenever possible, I will take a dog in and give it a home. I’ve got five, three of my own and two I am fostering.’
Over the intercom the trolley dolly announced. ‘Darlington, Darlington your next station stop. Thank you for travelling with East Coast Railways.’
I stood up and reaching for my briefcase, asked, ‘Are you getting out here?’
She eased herself out of her seat and when she stood up I saw just how tubby she was, but it didn’t matter to me now. I felt sure, in that ample bosom of hers, she would have more than enough of that word love for the two of us.
‘Here, Shelly let me be of assistance.’ I said, stepping from the carriage onto the platform. She was unsteady on her feet—I assumed it was because of all the alcohol she had consumed. She took my hand and almost fell into my arms, the green twine of the balloon twisting around the pair of us, becoming the leash to take me home with. Or, so I thought.
Her face flushed pink, she giggled, and when she had managed to untangle us, she stepped away from me and walked to the end of the platform, the part that juts out from underneath the arching canopy. I followed and as I drew level, I saw her let go of her red tinfoil heart, her face wet with emotion as it rocketed skywards.
‘Goodbye, my beautiful baby girl. I will never forget you and your Mam will never, ever, stop loving you.’
Her words were punctuated with great gasps and with both arms I reached forward to hold her, but she pulled away from me.
‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise your daughter had died.’ I said ‘If there’s anything I can do, anything at all, I’m here to help.’
Shelly didn’t answer and teetered in her high heels back along the platform.
‘Look, I know we got off to a bad start and I was a bit of a grumpy bastard, but please, let me drive you home. You’re in no fit state to be alone tonight.’
She crossed over to the other side of the platform and turned to face me.
‘No thanks, the Saltburn train will be here in a minute. Besides,’ she said, reaching into her brassiere and pulling out my handkerchief, pressing the heat of it into my palm, ‘I don’t keep the company of wolves.
Copyright © Talia Hardy. 10.02.2010.