The clock beside me said 6:23am: digital and with unmoving hands, but still the weight of the day boore down upon me. At 2pm today I would become a married man and what was rising through me was raw unprocessed panic: the knowledge I was on the edge of a terrible catastrophe!
I’d had doubts, of course, those are normal, but suddenly I realised I was walking into a form of prison where personality is not allowed to express itself and only general patterns of behaviour are permitted. Did I want to be that conventional!?
My family loved her, my parents loved her, my friends were impressed that I had “tagged” someone so presentable and sensible but now, at this “late hour” I realised I had been herded to a pasture called “Common-sense” and I could not bear the prospect. I loved her, of course, and that gentle way she dealt with failings, of which I have many, but her kindness was suffocating me, and the idea of being trapped in this union seemed unbearable.
As the rest of my family slept in the house around me, I packed a bag and crept down stairs. Using my key I opened and closed the front door as quietly as I could and then hurried away up the street before anyone could see me.
I had no plans, panic seldom does, but escaping was all I could think of and I would explain myself to the world another day. At this early hour the tube station was not open so I just kept walking towards the next one and then the next, worried that someone from my area would recognise me and ask me what I was doing: that did not happen.
At last, at 7am, the stations opened and I planned to go to Euston but first I travelled on the circle line going round and round while wondering about my life. I had no strategy except possibly going to Manchester, where I had been a student and whose streets were full of memories, adventures and those trysts which remind us we were not always domesticated.
Calmer now, I began to think a bit about what I had done, and some confusion ran through me because, I must admit, I am not an easy man as you may have realised, but Sarah had that patience which can bring peace to any soul. What she saw in me I cannot say? While thinking this fear flowed through me, but from the other side: was I wrong?
Perhaps she was the one girl who could tame my chaos and help me make something of my life, but now it was too late: my absence would have been noted and people would be trying to reach me. Needless to say, I had turned my phone off so no one could trace me: how would I explain myself?
To try and settle my nerves I did what all wise men do; left the underground, entered a pub and bought myself a drink to calm my nerves: I needed to do some ordered sensible thinking. The fates are not always kind, and sometimes seem downright unpleasant so as I raised my second double whisky to my lips I heard a song I love come from the speakers, “If you leave me now,” by Chicago. It was one of my dad’s favourites and he used to play it and swing my mother round the kitchen to its melody: she’s passed on now and he’s married someone else but those memories always linger don’t they?
At last, as far away from common sense as you can travel in a lifetime, I returned to the underground to complete my journey: the time was 11:03. I was full of indecision and regret and uncertainty and almost any kind of “Un” you can imagine, but I was too embarrassed to go back: Sarah would never forgive me, and perhaps the news had already got through to her.
I arrived at Euston station at around 11:20 and walked towards the departure boards, as ruined by his own stupidity as any man can be . As I did so, I heard a voice I recognised call out my name: it was my step-mother’s elder brother, doubtless on the way to the wedding and not one of my favourite people. “Steven” he called. “What the hell are you doing here. You are getting married in two hours!?”