Friday, 17 April 2015

"Another" by Rachael Smart

The otherness of the London underground overwhelms her. Before Kitty can see it, she is already visualising the canary yellow-painted line and its angular edge. She gets shunted along the single-file walkways by the arrivals in their morning rush to the office and their faces seem to enter her head. She’d tried to explain this sensation to Dr Baltimore, that when she was out and about on the high street or in pubs, stranger’s eyes penetrated her head as if it was made of glass and they witnessed all her bad thoughts. She’d regretted telling him – but it was too late.

She knew she’d return to where Brad fell. AS the trains channel through the station, the wheel shrieks make her heart jump. Stood well back under the liverish strip lights, she fixes her eyes to the charred black walls on the other side then she counts backwards, very slowly, to turn the anxiety down in her head. Jolts of underground wind raise Kitty’s hair above her head and in the reflection of the advert board she sees herself looking distorted and white. She can hardly hold herself up in the wind vacuum, the air down here tastes rubber-coated and sulphuric; the flavour of death.

So this is how it was for Brad – and all the deliberate jumpers over the years, too she supposes – their faces in the hot wind, dropping quickly. She’d had to come to see what his frantic eyes saw all around him before he was pushed because sometimes she can’t even remember doing it. Denial, Dr Baltimore said.

Intoxicated and unstable, her defence had argued. A mentally vulnerable woman but a deliberate, impulsive act all the same. He’d cheated on her for years, her dear Brad, had smiled in her face as he told her, casually blew cigarette smoke up at the sky. She’d loved him dearly.

Kitty remembers the pulse of Brad’s ventilator that sounded just like the beep of the commuter’s Oyster cards against the sensor. In her pocket, she expels a red pill – red is for stop thinking, red is for calm thoughts and sucking the capsule stops the memories from creeping in. The commuters sense that she is not like them, the way she stands rigid with her spiny back pressed against the station wall until the train arrives. She counts aloud in between the station stops and tries to block out the image of her own hands pushing Brad’s chest with such anger, the way he lurched back, the unremarkable sound of man hitting fast train.

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