We used the train. We got a return ticket. On the way back we boarded, planning to get off at a different station and then taking a walk. The passengers in the cabin around us twitched nervously. They were all young and black – perhaps Pakistani.
As we were zipping along, I began to wonder if this kind of public transport apartheid was the norm, and had we inadvertently upset the status quo. A young girl kept turning around to look at us. I smiled, trying to be as mummy-ish as possible. It was all very uncomfortable.
We stood to get off at our stop, the train waited a short while before easing in to the station.
Then I clocked him. And he – me. Us.
I didn’t mean to stare of course, but he certainly meant to stare at us. My child was oblivious at that point. staring at his phone.
The train stopped. Eight of us got off – all white -except mine -a streak of Roma in his appearance. He was ahead of us all.
I didn’t recognise him – not his face. But I did recognise the uniform. The bomber jacket and jeans, the haircut. That walk. He was tall. His jacket filled with the breeze and billowed as he strode along, turning and looking at us.
I had clocked him, and he had clocked me.
Hang back a bit I said. There’s a Naz in front.
We hung back, as did everyone else. Intimidated by his aggressive presence.
He wouldn’t do anything in public said the young man with me.
He wouldn’t care I said.
We can beat him up if he tries he said.
I didn’t bring my knuckleduster and switch-blade knife. Hang back I said.
Two sets of stairs over two sets of rail tracks. He stands at the bottom lighting his cigarette. Watching us. I bristle. To get to the busy road without a stand-off would be good.
Everyone pretends to look busy on the steps, a couple go for the lift.
He carries on, walking as broadly as he can, shoulders wide apart. Arrogance, no I wouldn’t call it that. Pride – nor that. He looked round again with purpose as he headed left over the bridge. At this point no one wanted to be directly behind him, so we took over.
He went left. We went right. Standing at the busy crossroads we had made our escape and he kept on walking further and further away.
H.A.T.E. not L.O.V.E.
Love not hate.