Synaesthesia Magazine Cities - Page 30

The train shoved north, and the English countryside flicked past. The sun warmed the coach, rays shot through the window, strobes of dust hung overhead. It’s only when I’m traveling alone that it seems everyone else is taking their journey in pairs. A couple sitting a few seats further down nestled into one another, lovingly fighting for the armrest. Fields lined with long hedges bare from the winter cold that had come too soon. When I dreamt of England, I envisioned a place with more cattle and green space than people, a hilly and forever frigid country pockmarked with blue-black water; the ponds looked like puddles as the train skirted past. I planted my heels on either side of my case as the track curved into Wellingborough. The train propelled past a historic-looking cemetery. Tombstones engulfed by naked branches; in the spring the sprouts would come back to overtake the only identifiable object of the life that existed beneath. I won’t be speaking to my father from above his cemetery plot. He didn’t want to slumber with the worms nudging into his withering delicate flesh.

The woman two rows to my right looked over her floral rimmed glasses at me. Her eyes reminded me of egg yolks with lids wet and brimming. Old age papers your skin, yellows your nails, and gives your eyes that thick, sticky sheen. My father’s eyes would never look wet and old like hers. His charcoal brown irises always had a redness where the white was supposed to be—I can’t remember a time when they looked alive.

My father and I share two things I’m willing to admit to: smoking and pride. The latter is the reason he died without hearing from me again. It’s my first Christmas without him. This year I didn’t have to giftwrap my pity and drive home to hand deliver it. It was an expensive and wild idea, one I was contented with making. The holidays weren’t about Christ for my family, instead, it was the one time of the year when we all felt obligated to reunite; obligated because it’s what the other families were doing, the real families we wanted so badly to be. In an hour, I’d be tangled in hugs, and greeted by gaping smiles from my girlfriend’s family. Would they notice how foreign togetherness feels for me?

We were never religious; no God-fearing nonsense loomed overhead during my childhood. But I later realized God doesn’t need to be involved to unveil my sins, according to my father. By eighteen I’d stopped bringing boys home. I’d stopped praying for the love of a man. I gave up on the possibility of my father beating his addictions. All of my decisions played a part in the disconnect between he and I.

I haven’t been sad about his death, some part of me short-circuits when I think of how he’d now get his wish; to be burned up, boxed, and peppered over the edge of the abandoned water tower he used to climb as a teenager.

The train stuttered to a stop, the brakes breathed out in a steady hiss, and the doors slid open. There was something about leaving the city, and walking in a small town that can’t hide you from your own wandering mind. The quietness of the countryside reminded me of my father; how he died without a daughter, no friends outside of the company he’d worked at for twenty years. And here I was in a new world, as far as I could physically be from him, and now that I’d been told he died he felt closer than ever. I sat out front of the station waiting to see my girlfriend’s car pull into the parking lot. A little ginger boy ran towards a pigeon as his mother collected their bags. There is something about pigeons, in particular, that the British despise. As an outsider, I don’t fully understand the blind fear.

The bird remains the single most popular outcast this country has. The pigeon with its jabbing walk, panhandles around outside tables for a stray crumb. The bird cannot be eliminated, is oblivious to its status and its enemies. People fear reality and pigeons exemplify over-population. They are often diseased with nubs for feet scavenging for survival. I am told alcoholism is a disease but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch someone drown himself. Maybe it’s the similarities between my father and this loathed animal that make me unable to chase and kick at them. I don’t care for the pigeon, or for my father, but I can’t be the cause of either harm or death. Even though he is gone, I am still plagued by him and by the destruction he so subtly laced throughout my life. His death has made him real to my faraway life; his omniscience cooks up hate inside me.

Emma’s Volkswagen stopped in front of the station. Her large teeth presented behind a wide-lipped smile. As she flicks her bangs out of her face, I see him again, in the burnt brown hue of her eyes. She clutches my shoulders and kisses me hard. ‘Your mums told meh—you alright?’ I forage in my deep coat pocket for a cigarette, grind the metal Zippo with my thumb until a flame peaks; I singe the end of my Mayfair. Smoke and hot air drift from my nose and mouth. I kiss her again.