Showcasing creative writing by university students around the world.

Illustration by Harry Sankey

Published Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Words by

You Had Had A Difficult Day

You had had a difficult day. Fifty odd company reports lie in wait for you in the coming weeks. You were on the tube. “On my way”, you reply to the text. You’ve got no signal, you wouldn’t - you’re underground. Still, you’re five stops away.

You had had a difficult day. Fifty odd company reports lie in wait for you in the coming weeks. You were on the tube. “On my way”, you reply to the text. You’ve got no signal, you wouldn’t – you’re underground. Still, you’re five stops away.


Your father told you on the way to your first day at secondary school that each tube station is about two minutes apart. Since then each stop counted till the destination is automatically doubled in number. You think that you’ve already rid yourself of a few seconds by doing the maths. As you look down the tube carriage, there are several things that you find to distract yourself with. That loud Frenchman needs to get a new pair of trainers. A middle aged woman with roots like a silver hand resting on her brown head is reading the Daily Mail – what a waste of 55p. An old man in a brown old pensioner coat is rather unsubtly turning a copy of the Sun at different angles. He’s admiring the assets of the girl on one of the early pages. You wonder if he gets much out of it, looking at paper breasts when he might never feel the real thing again in his life. He looks very old. But he could have an old wife. He could be a millionaire, better still, with a twenty year-old girlfriend who is a pin-up girl herself. You reconsider this. He probably wouldn’t be on the tube if he was a millionaire. The comfort of reminiscence, you assume.


On a similar thought you glance at a dark woman with neatly painted beige finger nails and flawless batwing eyeliner. Her bag is clutched to a medium sized yet firm bosom and her slim calves curve gracefully into a pair of toned and prominent thighs. For a microsecond the weekend long fantasy plays out in your head. You somehow engage her in conversation, get off with her at the next stop, have a couple of drinks but not too many before you head back to your tatty house in Fulham. You wake her up with a cheap but cheerful cereal breakfast and sit watching the BBC Breakfast show in bed in the morning with her. She seems like a smart looking woman, but not too smart – you wouldn’t want the bedroom being transformed into the set for the Andrew Marr Show. You’d hang around London holding hands, the habit of awkward couples who are somewhat insecure about the status of their relationship. You’d hit some trendy club you were both too old for, head back to yours and say a few words the next day about hanging about sometime while knowing that nothing serious would ever happen between the two of you. It would be casual, it would be pleasant. In reality the Tube was hardly the best spot for pulling girls. You are a clean-shaven man, who could possibly exaggerate the importance of your employment role as an auditor. However, there was nothing romantic about a tube, smelling disconcertingly of urea and holding no claim to any romantic tradition or symbolism. This was hardly the steam engine from brief encounter. Well, I guess Freud would see some phallic significance with the tube rushing underground into a tunnel, but that kind of violent sexual imagery was hardly an observation which you could use as a starting point for a conversation. You hadn’t thought of phallic imagery since your English A-Level days when you wrote about that old horse in Tess of the d’Urbervilles being penetrated by the long beam on a horse carriage. That was pretty phallic. Phallic, Is that spelt with an F or a P? You wish you could remember the name of that horse now. It was something like Queen, no it was male, King…no…Kings Cross.


“Two pints of Doom Bar, please”. You haven’t seen Steve in a good few months. You weren’t exactly bosom pals back at University. He was in that group which all ended up on the same bar crawls every Wednesday night. You both read Economics. You both remember lounging about in innumerable bars in Birmingham; with each trip it seemed your ambitions would become more and more realistic until by third year you would have all settled for mediocre internships – something you would have considered the middle of the dreaded bell curve when you first got your grades at eighteen. Somewhere along the way, you had decided it would be too tiring, climbing away out of that tepid pool of mediocrity. It was nice in there, too nice to risk for anything frighteningly better or worse.


He introduces you to a few of his new workmates. You glance at the faces, knowing most of them probably won’t crop up in your life remarkably often. There was that plump brunette, the blonde, the light brown-haired girl with the short haircut, what is that? A pixie? There was also the rugged looking rugby figure, you think his name was Mark and there was the Scotsman with early grey needles darting through almost black hair. This new job wasn’t exactly an upgrade for Steve. He moved from working with Barclays, where he secured his first internship to some management position in a computing firm. The job title sounded better, the pay was the same. No bull**** could change that.


Steve had brought you the girls for a reason, he knew you wanted a bit of fun. God that sounded cringe-worthy – you begin to wonder whether the expression “a bit of fun” or any variation on it should be reserved for hormonally charged adolescents, bragging in the sixth-form common room. So you talk to the pixie. She’s working on the floor below Steve, something to do with marketing. You admit you pay more attention to that nose, spotted with four or five light brown freckles, to her brown eyes, average but still nice, you glance at her hair and look for roots, she doesn’t seem the natural blonde type. Occasionally you dart your eyes to her breasts. They again are average, but average isn’t bad. A handful – it’s enough. She’s sparky and that is the real pulling factor. It sounds corny to say her eyes sparkle, but they do. She’s quick off the mark and bites back at your less-than gentle humour. She calls you a tosser for complaining about not having a seat on the tube when her sister had to stand for forty minutes when she was 7 months pregnant. She name drops the decent restaurants around your offices and asks you whether you’ve been to any of them. She tells you she ate at “that Italian” after looking round the Gauguin exhibition. He was a paedophile but she guesses Michael Jackson was too and they were both talented so you had to separate the condition from the achievement.


You suppress a smile. Steve and the gang have long gone and you promise the others you’ll make sure Frankie- that was her name- gets on the bus home. You’re pretty sure they know you have other intensions, but you weren’t bothered. She didn’t seem like one of those vulnerable girls who couldn’t handle anything heavy unless they’d endured had a handful of dinner dates. You glance at the barbed wire tattoo on her wrist. Maybe she’s got one on her thigh. Cheryl Cole? Actually, hopefully not.


Once you’ve taken her up to your room, you prepare to switch into autopilot; it will be the same routine. Her little finger entangles itself in your hair as you feel the index nail teasing your scalp. When you lean over her, on those half-clean Ikea sheets you notice how striking the mirror image of your two triangles of pubic hair is when matched against each other. That sounds creepy. This egg timer shape somehow marks a connection where you join. Not just in the crude sense. As your ear brushes against her neck, you become more and more aware, amongst other sensations of the small hair on the mole of the right side of her neck, brushing against you each time. It’s annoying. It’s always there. I’m there too. Well, I’m on the floor above in the bath. I didn’t go into work today because I had to go and have tests at the hospital. I can’t remember whether I told you about it being today or whether I just said it would be this week. I’m resting my big toe on the edge of the tap lever. I’m varying the pressure and weight of my toe; all wrinkled from the length of time I’ve been in the bath. I’m trying to decide whether or not to push down hard on the lever and let you know I’m here.

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