I parked up in the large car park known as ‘the rec,’ wiped my bleary eyes and stepped out of the vehicle.
The rec was the closest to the office I could park, not being a permanent member of staff, and required a five minute walk uphill walk through green parkland and up to the office.

It had been a more intensive, more mobile and more interesting week than usual.  But now I was tired and missed sleep, of which I normally have plenty.

I’d arrived home at 1.30 that morning, not enough hours earlier, after a day of business and evening of pleasure in London with excellent people seen all too infrequently.  I didn’t regret any of it, despite cutting it fine to reach my train.  The overground Great Western was due to leave in five minutes, I noticed, one tube stop away from Paddington.  I sweated slightly and tried to run through contingency options if I didn’t make it.

My pissed brain didn’t deliver any.  Cross that bridge when you come to it..

When the tube doors parted at Paddington with four, perhaps three and a half minutes left to departure, I necessarily sprinted through Paddington Station and was one of the last to hop aboard on the shrill whistle of a platform guard.

The train was crammed and noisy with similarly sozzled and suited businesspeople, most of whom weren’t travelling quite so far and seemed to alight within the commuter belt.  I wasn’t minded to battle further into the train and find my designated seat, so plopped down in first class opposite a mildly disapproving gentleman who looked like he suspected I didn’t belong there.  Fuck him.  I could easily belong there.  Drunk and fearless, I took my laptop from my bag, fiddled with a dongle, got online and did nothing.

Unsticking my forehead from the window, I wiped a sliver of dribble from my chin and noted the sweeping hollowness in my head.  Disconcertingly, I didn’t recall deciding to sleep.  We were stationary, the disapproving gentleman had disappeared; nobody had replaced him.  In fact, the train wasn’t very well populated at all.

Wow.  I’d had a proper sleep.

Had I been mugged?  The sleeping laptop screen stared back at me.  I could have been mugged.  I checked everything.  I hadn’t been mugged.  Good.  Now, where was I?  Yes, that was quite important.  New panic swarmed with consciousness as I arched my neck to look for a signpost marking our location.  There.  Ahh, the penultimate stop before my destination; ten minutes away.  Result!

Ouch.  My head spun.

Not enough hours later I was up and out and driving another hour west.  Then strolling up through the park.  “What the fuck is it then?” – a woman in front of me accused into her mobile.  “Ah, I’m fuckin sick of this, you’re gonna have to sort yourself out you prick.  You’re just gonna have to pay it then, aren’t you?”  A short, frizzily blonde bobbed woman dressed for an office; the language and fast-pace jarred.  She took no prisoners with him.  “We can’t have the bailiffs coming round every day demanding payment, can we?  You need to get organised, buy a diary, write stuff down.  Know what I mean?  You’re hopeless.  I’ve had fuckin enough of this, really.”

I sluggishly overtook her, half-pitying who was on the other end of the phone, though they did sound like a dope.  She was quite feisty though, raw; rear view wasn’t bad.  He probably got rewards for putting up with her in his ear all the time.

Trying to focus on an ageing computer screen and clasping second or third caffeinated hot drink of the morning, I glanced down the long corridor to my left.  A new member of staff was starting that day, I dimly remembered.  A Friday?  Fair enough.  She’d be sitting opposite me, at the desk just vacated by a colleague I was getting along well with.

Squeaking open, the door at the end of the corridor presented the diminutive, gloriously foulmouthed woman.  I chuckled to myself.  We met formally: professional smile and handshake; no hint that I looked familiar.   She sat down and settled in; we had had a few chatty where-are-you-from / where-do-you-live exchanges.  She was open, chatty and forthcoming.

The day passed in a fuggy blur, a dreamlike quality about it which came from not enough sleep and a lazily oozing, sprawling hangover which wasn’t vicious but still let its presence be known.

About half three that afternoon, requisite comfort generated and nobody else in the room, following a silence of a few minutes I quietly asked: “bit strong with your bloke on the phone this morning?”

She went crimson but smiled, then told me all about his being lax with repayments on a van.


One Response to debt

  1. annajskye says:

    It has been many years since I last commuted into London for work but this post took me back to those groggy days crammed like sardines in a carriage where the under seat heating only ever seemed to blast out on hot summer days. Then striding through the city streets that hung heavy with the stench of exhaust fumes.

    Btw I would tend to agree with the feisty blonde it isn’t nice to have the bailiff coming around every other day. I once patted my heavily pregnant belly and told the bailiff if he ever caught up with the B*****d let me know……..that got him off my back.

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