Two women strike up an unlikely conversation waiting for a train. But there is a twist in the taleby Emily Ruth Ford / January 25, 2019 / Leave a comment
Sami Lieberman was walking up the escalator at London Bridge station, looking at her phone, elbowing past passengers standing on the right, her tights itching from the unexpected hot weather. It was Friday evening, and the stress of the day was beginning to recede. She was thinking about the 141 she would maybe just catch, how she’d go to Hackney lido if the rain held off. She was thinking back to last weekend, when she’d gone down to Sussex to see her mother, who appeared to have aged startlingly in a short span of time; she was wondering whether they were out of dried cat food.
Each day she marvelled at the new station. London Bridge gaped shiny and silver as the inside of a spaceship. Workers in hi-vis jackets could be spotted putting the finishing touches to beams and concourses. The gleaming caverns seemed too pristine to sully with passengers, quite unlike the dusty train halls of Sami’s childhood. Everything was different, but in a way that would be reassuring to the average British visitor, with its standard-issue shops: Prêt a Manger, Accessorize, Paperchase. Sometimes she was thrown by a closed staircase or shuttered exit, and found herself cast out onto surprising streets.
The escalator tipped Sami off onto a dark, covered walkway that led to the buses. A blockage had interrupted the rush-hour flow of people, and in her peripheral vision she saw a group standing with suitcases, and a small, hunched figure on the outside. Engrossed in her phone, she picked up a snatch of conversation: “I’m not sure, we’re just visiting, have you asked the station staff?”
A voice replying, frayed with old age. “Yes, I have, I have asked. I asked two gentlemen back there and they told me to go left and left again, and now I’m here, and I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.” Indignation failed to mask the speaker’s anxiety.
Sami looked up. An elderly woman stood talking to four tourists, who smiled at her apologetically. A discussion had been had. The old woman was lost and had asked for directions. The tourists did not know where to send her.
Sami considered whether to intervene. The 141 was about to leave, and she hated to miss it, even though she had…