Travelling by Jonathon Roberts

Seven thirty. The morning commute. Mayhem on the main road. Misted-up windscreen won’t wipe clear. Damp cloth won’t dry out. Windscreen wipers rushing back and forth back and forth, barely making a difference. Spray on the road. Rain plummeting from the leaden sky. Wind whistling over the roof.

Stuck in traffic at the turning. Nobody’s moving – stalemate. Radio blaring from a Porsche. Idiot. Finally through, let’s play Parking Space Scramble. Stupid Audi driver nicks the last one. Never mind, there’ll be others.

There are no others.

Five minutes later, slide into a space. Ignore the horn cursing me. Get out of the car. Black heels straight into a puddle. Damn. Never mind, they’ll dry out. Snatch up the bag. Lock the doors. Check the doors. Hair’s getting wet. I look like a mongrel.

Click open the brolly – that’s better. Rush across the asphalt WATCH OUT! Stupid cyclists.

Automatic doors whoosh open. Blast of warm air. That’s nice. Shut brolly. Join the queue. Wait in line for hours. Finally reach the ticket machine. Quick, find the coins. No change, no change! There – a pound coin. Jam it into the slot. It falls straight back out. Try again. Success! Receive ticket. Try to juggle bag and purse and brolly and ticket. Look like an idiot. Shove purse in bag. Composure.

Running late. Dash to the platform. Terrified I’ll miss my train. I don’t. The train’s running late as well. Typical. All around bustle and babble, trundle of suitcase wheels, ringtones of mobile phones. Finally, a train. Wait for the doors to open. Try to hold back the tide of commuters desperate to grab a seat.

Fail.

Manage to find a seat near the back. There’s a reason nobody’s sat there. Now I’ve got a wet bum. Stand up. Never mind, the journey isn’t long. The train judders out of the station. Whizzing through the rural-urban fringe. Buddleia lines the side of the track, purple heads drooping. Raindrops skitter across the windows. The train judders into the next stop. The final jerk as movement ceases. A moment of silence before the doors open. A new barrage of noise. A bluetoothing businessman shoves past. He doesn’t apologise. He sits on the wet seat. I don’t stop him.

Off again. More juddering, more hissing. Mist presses against the windows, seeking an entrance. The wind strips it away. All those sounds. A hurricane of rings, trills, whispers, shouts. Too-busy-for-you businesswomen tapping on laptops. Two old ladies on a trip from Jarrow. Noisy schoolgirls hastily applying make-up. I was one of them not long ago. Who am I now? I don’t know. I’ve lost myself in the rat race.

I’ve been daydreaming. The cityscape whizzes past outside. The terror of having missed the station. The relief of realising I haven’t. The gradual slowing. The eventual stop. Scurry for the doors. People pouring out. Trip on the platform. Doesn’t matter, nobody saw.

Nobody cared.

Open brolly. Flimsy canopy snatched away by the wind. Bummer. A bus shoots past. Great, wet legs now. Today isn’t my day. Never mind. Hurry across the street. Into the warmth of the foyer. Into the lift. Gliding up to floor seven. Over to the vending machine. Nice cup of coffee. Caffeine, my drug of choice. Now over to my desk. Swivel chair – always a joy. Glance out the window. It’s raining heavier than ever. I’m glad I brought a sandwich for lunch. I pity those who have to forage outside for their food. Rush hour is over for me. Now a few hours’ respite filing complaints. Then it’s all to do again. But at least home will await me then.

This is my life now. Work. Eat. Sleep. Travel. Mostly travel. It seems most of what I do these days is travelling – and that can’t be right, can it? I used to enjoy my life. I used to have free time, and friends, and things to do. The ‘real world’ seemed a far-away ideal. Now I realise I was better off with what I had.

I’m going to ring Ellie tonight. I’m going to organise something to do at the weekend – maybe a trip to the cinema, see that new one with Johnny Depp. And I might have a bath, too. Showers are too rushed for me, and I’ve still got to try out that new lavender candle Mum got me for Christmas. I might even make a proper meal, perhaps something with spaghetti, instead of something from a two-minute microwave packet. Have some me-time.

Because I’m always travelling. From home to work and back again. Rushing here, there, everywhere, but never anywhere I want to go. It seems to make the world feel less real. Duller, somehow, and less appealing. Like all the colour’s been drained out of life.

I do too much travelling. I think we all do too much travelling. Maybe we just need to get out more.