The Manchester Review
Chris Smith
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I wonder if the girl that I am travelling to meet has had second thoughts; maybe she is not even on the plane. I have no way to check because we only communicated via an online chat room. Her username is Sinusoid; I call myself Quasimodo. I have made a sign with her name on so that we can find each other at the airport. Apart from the sign, two disposable charcoal barbeques, my wallet, and a letter in a sealed envelope, I have nothing with me.
I have not eaten since yesterday morning, and did not bring any food. Sinusoid and I discussed this, and we decided that it would be best if our bowels were empty, just in case. In first class you are not expected to walk to Coach C for your food, an attendant will take your order and do it for you. Someone has ordered a coffee and a bacon sandwich, and with the same impulse that brought me to first class, I order the same. The sandwich is brilliant, I can taste it in my mouth for a long time after I have devoured it and drunk my coffee. It also makes me feel guilty; Sinusoid will be refusing the pre-landing snack as the plane approaches the southwest coast.
    Since meeting Sinusoid I have thought about life and death, it is our most typed-about topic. Sinusoid thinks we live in torment so as to appreciate the hedonistic afterlife; this is where she thinks we are going. I think that when we die we will be nothing more than other people’s memories, and fossils in pictures and writings. Nobody will remember me, and so that leaves only the fossils. This morning I collected all my photographs together and put them in a metal bin. I removed the battery from my smoke alarm and soaked the photographs in turpentine. I stood and watched them burn and thought: this is the beginning. I deleted my computer file titled Poetry, and cleared my Internet history. I even reset my desktop to the generic Windows blue. That is what I think we’re doing; we are returning to our factory settings because nothing else has worked.

The train journey is fields and towns, cows and people. We stop twice; people get off, people get on, and we continue south. I worry that I may have left a window open in my apartment, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I think about my cat, Ginge, this is the same name that I had for most of my high school education. I thought it would be cathartic to pass it on to my cat; sometimes I’d sit and stroke him, and chant, ‘Red-head, Red-head, If I was a red-head, I’d rather be dead.’ I’d filled his bowl with about ten days worth of food, and left the water running into the kitchen sink. Ginge likes to drink straight from the tap.
    When we pull into London Euston I stay on the train until everyone has left; I stay on the train until the ticket inspector walks past.
   “Is everything ok Sir?”
    “Yes,” I say.
    “I’m afraid we need to prepare the train for the return journey.”
    “Ok,” I say.
    As I walk along the platform towards the exit I wonder why I didn’t say no, everything is not ok. I think it is maybe because I don’t have a return journey; I have a girl to meet.
    ‘No it is not ok, but I have a girl to meet.’ I try it in my head. I want to say it out loud. I want to scream and shout it so that everyone knows.
I don’t.
    London Euston is very busy. It is full of people who do not care. I look at a set of identical orange LED’s on a set of identical black electronic boards and it is as if I never left Liverpool. There are differences though; from here I could go to Glasgow Central, Tring, Watford Junction, Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Crewe, or Milton Keynes Central. I want to throw stones at them, smash out the lights. San Francisco, London, or Littleborough, it still doesn’t matter. Liverpool Lime Street flashes up – platform seven, the return journey. If I could get there in an instant the LED’s would tell me exactly the same thing: it is 16:58. I have an hour to get to Heathrow Airport.