Monday, November 2, 2009

Our Trip to London, Part the First

The next day, The Drunkard and I decided that it would be as good a time as any to go to London. Unlike many people we had met, the two of us had no assignments to complete before our seminars and, to sweeten the deal, our seminars were not held until the following Thursday. So, the next morning around ten, we met outside The Pavilion and started walking towards one of the train stations in town. On the way, we ran across The Student, huddled behind a bush outside the main café on campus.
The Drunkard motioned for me to stop, crept up behind The Student, and crouched down. “Piss off another boyfriend?”
The Student leapt up and let out a squeal sort of like one which a trod-upon hamster would emit. He turned, saw The Drunkard, and said, “Ah, you. Well, if you must know, yes.”
“Misdirecting your mojo, my friend.”
“Thanks for telling me,” The Student said, peering over the bush. “Good, he’s gone. Hell of a big Scotsman, this time. I’m thinking about just giving up hope. I was on the verge of being in five fights in rapid succession last night.”
“Never fear, my modern-day D’Artagnan,” The Drunkard said, standing up and slapping The Student on the back, “one day the law of averages shall work in your favor.”
“Thank you, that is immensely comforting,” The Student said, shooting a glance towards the Registry building.
“Say,” I said, “The Drunkard and I are making our way to London for the day. Going to go for a nice meander and see if we can get some challah. How about you come along? It would certainly beat hiding in bushes all day and jumping from tight spot to tight spot.”
The Student nodded and said, “I don’t see why not. The only thing I had planned today was an extended walk around town, and I’ve already done that three or four times this week.”
“Besides,” said The Drunkard, “now you can hit on taken girls in another city!”
“I’d quote Job,” said The Student with a voice that only the sufferer could manage, “but I’d be worried that God might take that as a challenge.”

Canterbury had—and, barring a catastrophic implosion of the rail system in the United Kingdom, I would imagine still has—two train stations: Canterbury East, and Canterbury West. One, the East station, was across from the bus station, next to a snooker club (snooker is a game similar to billiards, but different enough to be completely confusing), and seemingly infested with chavs—the individuals who summoned a then-unknown Brooklyn aspect of my personality that was, apparently terrifying. The other, altogether much nicer on account of its proximity to a farmers’ market (it is a well known fact that people who go to farmers’ markets are completely and utterly harmless), was closer to the University and, it being early in the morning, we decided to go to the West station.
So, we paid for our tickets (“Extortionate,” said The Student; “Ri-fuckin-diculous. Next time I’m walking,” said The Drunkard) and waited for our train on the second platform. It was a crisp day, but sunny. If I had to guess, I would have said that it was around sixty degrees outside—quite different from the weather in Nashville, where it was probably still eighty degrees despite autumn’s presence. We checked the arrival time, noticed that the train still had five minutes until it arrived, and I began to hum. On a personal note, I’ve always hated waiting for transportation to come. Even something like an elevator—I couldn’t stand it. How are you supposed to come up with conversation that will last for a couple minutes and then stop? It is really—
“So,” said The Drunkard to The Student, thankfully cutting short my train of thought, “what was this one like?”
The Student, I noticed, had a face he made when he had to ask someone to repeat themselves. He was the only person I’ve ever met who had anything like it. Raised eyebrows, a self-conscious grin, and a very sudden politeness (not that The Student wasn’t the most polite out of our group, he was; it was more that the politeness spiked to twice the normal levels of politeness). “Sorry?” he asked, making the face.
The Drunkard quickly checked his watch and took a drink from a flask. “The girl,” he said, with a wince from whatever it was that he just finished. “What was she like—and, next, what was the boyfriend like?”
“Well,” said The Student, digging his hands into his blazer pockets, “the boyfriend’s an easy question. Body build something like Fabio with the temperament of Mr. Hyde. Thankfully, he wasn’t altogether smart, as I managed to hide from him behind a bush. The girl, though. Ah,” he remarked, glancing down the train tracks with a bizarre smile on his face.
A few moments passed until The Drunkard gently coughed into his hand.
The Student snapped back to reality. “Ah, right. Well, she was Belgian. Beautiful, beautiful girl. Pale skin. You might call it an alabaster hue.”
“Alabaster?” asked The Drunkard. “You hanging around The Writer?”
The Student blushed. “No, I do have some taste in friendships, thank you. It’s just… the language. Er, the emotion. Got swept away. Don’t you get that feeling?”
The Drunkard took another swig from the flask. “What feeling?”
“You know, like you’ve been thwacked outside the head with something. You see stars, but none of the pain you get when you’ve actually been thwacked outside the head. Extreme happiness, I’d call it. Closest to nirvana you could get on Earth. I don’t know, Drunkard, I just start talking like I’m some damned Romantic poet; strange thing is, I hate reading those besotted opium addicts more than most other sort of literature. You don’t ever feel like that?”
The Drunkard stared at The Student for about a half a minute, grunted, took another swig from his flask, and said, “I’m going to have a quick piss. Hold the train if it comes.” He went inside to use the toilets.
The Student turned to me. “I think I hit a cord in our inebriated friend.”
I nodded. “That would make sense. There are a few things which drive a man to drink as much as he does and rejected love is definitely one of them--though, truth be told, I'd bet that he's suffering from all three of them.” I looked up at the screen. The train was delayed a further five minutes. “Belgian, eh?”
The Student shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? Borders are artificial constructs, and language is a temporary hindrance.”
The Student snorted. “The last time I was in synagogue was—oh shit, Yom Kippur was yesterday, wasn’t it?”
I checked my calendar on my phone. “Ah,” I said, “sure was.”
“Sure was what?” asked The Drunkard, returning from his restroom excursion.
“Yesterday,” said The Student, “was Yom Kippur.”
The Drunkard shrugged. “Last year, instead of fasting, I ate bacon and sausages on a hike. Doesn’t really matter. Superstition’s superstition regardless of what name it goes under.”
Normally, I would agree with him. However, growing up in the tradition like I did, I was slightly surprised by what he said. Even the Jews-turned-atheists I knew fasted out of habit on Yom Kippur; it was just ingrained in our personalities. That’s not to say that The Drunkard wasn’t making sense—because he was—it was just… well, it’s Yom Kippur!
“Anyway,” said The Student, “religion isn’t a big deal. I’ve been shot down over much more inane things than religion. And, honestly, except on Sunday, who gives a damn?”
“And Wednesday,” said The Drunkard.
“Friday for the Muslims,” I said.
“Wednesday and Friday, right.”
“Oh, fuck, Friday night through Saturday night,” said The Drunkard.
“And the Sabbath, that goes without saying.”
“And then Lent,” I said. “Lent’s a pretty big deal for the Christians.”
“Easter,” said The Drunkard.
“Christmas,” I said.
“Then you got all those saints’ days sprinkled around the calendar for the Catholics.”
“Oy,” I said, “there’s a lot of them.”
Thankfully, the train arrived at this moment and spared The Student from further listing of reasons why religion would matter to some people on, it turned out, an increasingly larger portion of the calendar.

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