Resting on a blood red, metal seat in the middle of London Victoria Coach Station, I await the bus that will deliver me to my final destination. I’ve been up and down the country a lot in the past week, visiting my family in Swansea and some of my friends in Brighton. A large man sits down on the same row of seats as me, leaving the obligatory few between us as one does. His mass bulges into the seats on either side of him and each of his movements result in a tidal wave of shaking and creaking throughout the entire row. I reach into my pocket and flip open a half-used packet of cigarettes. I light one between my lips. Hopefully it will mask the rancid cocktail of sweat and halitosis wafting from the man sitting nearby.
Resting on a blood red, metal seat in the middle of London Victoria Coach Station, I await the bus that will deliver me to my final destination. I’ve been up and down the country a lot in the past week, visiting my family in Swansea and some of my friends in Brighton. A large man sits down on the same row of seats as me, leaving the obligatory few between us as one does. His mass bulges into the seats on either side of him and each of his movements result in a tidal wave of shaking and creaking throughout the entire row. I reach into my pocket and flip open a half-used packet of cigarettes. I light one between my lips. Hopefully it will mask the rancid cocktail of sweat and halitosis wafting from the man sitting nearby. I laugh slightly and an abrupt puff of smoke ejaculates from my lungs into the crisp evening air. The past week has been one of the sweetest of my life. Whatever trivial incidents inconvenience me now will soon be irrelevant.
I stepped off the train and into the toasty arms of my mother. I hadn’t seen her in a few months because I’d been snowed under with assignments and uni deadlines. The laughter lines framing her eyes deepened as she chuckled with elation. I always feel a pang of guilt when I’m reminded of how much she misses me.
There was a venison stew in the oven when we arrived home and I could smell it from the whole way up the street. It smelled like home. Everything was exactly where it always was: my dad’s recliner, mum’s numerous copies of Pride and Prejudice stacked in exactly the same way on the dark oak bookshelf, even an old appointment letter from years ago that no one had ever bothered to throw out was sat in its usual spot. I shovelled warm gravy and mashed potato down my throat. It felt like the best hug you’d ever had. Nothing I cooked at uni ever tasted half as brilliant as this masterpiece. After tea dad passed me a beer and started to ask me if I’d met a nice girl yet. Saying there’d been a few would probably have been over stepping the mark so I just twinkled slightly and told him no, not yet. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a beer lid popping off and clinking onto the counter top, then taking that first gulp of fresh, effervescent liquid. My dad had introduced me to beer at a relatively young age. Not in an irresponsible way, I reckon he just couldn’t quite wait until I was eighteen to share his first pint with his son.
We didn’t often have the opportunity to sit and chat like this. What was so obscenely wonderful about that evening was that we all laughed more than we spoke and watched some of my favourite childhood movies with a bottle of pinot noir my mum had been saving. When the evening had dimmed to drowsy embers and I was on my way to my room, dad placed his rough hand on my shoulder. His eyes were sober. “I’m really proud of you son… You’ve been working so hard up there and getting good grades and whatnot. I just want you to know that. I’m bloody proud of you.”, he muttered sleepily. I sat on my bed afterwards, fiddling with my old teddy bear Marcel. My mum used to dab chamomile oil on him when I was younger. It helped me sleep. Marcel still smelled of chamomile. I slept better than I have done in months that night.
When stepping onto the bus I quickly scan the seats and choose the furthest corner of the coach from the man who’d been sitting next to me outside. I sit in the seat behind a tall, dark looking guy with his headphones in. I long for a quiet journey. So I can stare at the mountains soaring past and indulge myself in another euphoric daydream. I pull Marcel out of my backpack and hold him tightly to my chest. For some reason I couldn’t leave him this time. He’s like a piece of home that might protect me now I’m not there anymore.
Jane and Alex greeted me in Brighton with fresh, sugared doughnuts on the pier. Their Harrington jackets and sparkling laughs between sips of cheap cider teased a smile out of me. Alex bought chips but a feisty seagull snaffled them almost immediately. I felt truly carefree. We went to a party and Jane kissed me, like she always does when she’s drunk. She tasted like vodka and sticky coca cola. We’ve had a ‘thing’ since we were about seventeen but neither of us really wanted to get into a relationship before going to uni, especially since I was going to Scotland. I don’t speak to them as often as I’d like. It’s difficult to keep up with people when you move away like I did.
Later on we found ourselves at some random guy’s flat. He had quite a lot of weed and for a couple of hours I forgot where I was. I lost myself in the sweet mist that filled the room. My vision was blurred from the alcohol. Alex and Jane were still active, dancing to ABBA in the distance. I was inert, my body resting against a raggedy old beanbag, a pleasant sensation filling my chest and spreading to the ends of my fingers and toes. A warm tear dropped from my glazed eyes and I turned my head slowly to stare out of the open window. All of the ghosts that usually haunt me dissipated into nothing but a cool breeze that swirled around me, shifting all of my sense to a peaceful equilibrium. The stars were hypnotic.
I notice the girl across the aisle from me has dropped her phone onto the floor of the coach and I lean down to pick it up for her, smiling. Resting back in my seat I close my eyes and my mind swims with blissful clarity. These past days have been the most charming of my life. The weight was finally lifted and I was able to feel again, briefly. I relished magnificent experiences with my favourite people. It was the perfect send off.