There we were on a train, my son and I. Second row in, on the left. I was in the window seat. Behind my son, a man. In front of me, a lady in a pink coat, with pink nail varnish, on a pink mobile. Opposite us sat a man by the window. Behind him, on the first row, by the window, another man. I was aware of two ladies further up on our side and one lady further up at the end of the carriage, on the right. Well I do have SAS blood in me, ipso factso! Ridiculous, but a safety habit. Oh Bruce, where is the conveyor belt!
We needed the fifth stop. At the second, my son asked me, “Is this our stop?” I replied, “No.” Then a female voice boomed out in the carriage, “Where are you going to?”
I looked at my son to see if he’d heard it too. But he sat there, motionless, expressionless, staring ahead. I was comfortably devastated as I felt the prickles and sweat of anxiety begin. I thought, “Why now, and how will this pan out?”
Suddenly my son said in a really booming voice, “Walsall!”
I turned to him and said, “No, we are not. We are going to Perry Barr.”
He looked at me and I just knew, by his face, his concern about the voice. His expression reflected my feelings of curious and amazed concern as to what would happen next. I started to giggle. I asked if he’d heard it too. He nodded, staring me out with bulging eyes. I whispered, “Who do you think it was?” He shrugged his shoulders. Then the female voice again boomed out throughout the carriage: “We are not there yet!”
Michael widened his eyes at me. I thought, “My god, our first group session type thing, or what!!!!”
I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. I became hysterical. Michael kept widening his eyes at me and told me to shush. I asked, “Where did it come from?”
He shook his head and, indicating further up the carriage, said, “I think up there.” I asked, “Was it the pink lady in front?” He shushed me again saying, “No.”
I was crying with laughter. I’d lost it. He told me they would think I was rude. “Who,” I asked, “who??!!” He shrugged his shoulders and laughed too, but with control.
We arrived at our stop. I was bent double and staggering. Michael was cool but laughing in a normal manner. People were staring at me. I felt drunk, and was mortifyingly aware that I looked it.
Michael said, “I think it was the lady opposite.” I said, “No, a man sat opposite.” He said, “No, a lady, mom. Do you think she fancied me and it was her who spoke?” Well, I screamed with laughter all the more. Poor Michael. “It was a man.” We debated rights, lefts, opposites etc. Apart from the odd outburst, I regained control.
Then we were sitting in a warm lecture theatre at a university whilst a lively, deeply committed lecturer bored us both stupid. I began to feel afraid. I felt I was going to sleep and had no control. I lent forward and put my fingers over my eyelids so as to hold them up. It didn’t work. My head was swimming. Michael said, “You’ve gone, Mom.” I needed to giggle but hadn’t the energy.
Well, he hadn’t even applied for the course, and it was a year too early. But it was all an experience. On the tour we were split into parents and prospective students. I couldn’t contain myself. Everything was so exciting to the guide but was truly excruciatingly dull to me. I kept snorting and giggling. I couldn’t stop it. I felt so rude, and kept apologising. Then I saw Michael and called out with a wave. He seemed to ignore me. It seemed he never even saw me.
On the train going home Michael sat opposite me laughing and talking to the window (to his reflection, maybe). Next to me sat a smart, abnormally immaculate man straight out of the 1970s, bouffant and all. At eye level, and at arm’s length in front of him, he held a book. It was entitled ‘How To Deal With Difficult People’. Well, that started me off again. I was snorting to myself.
Then I sneezed, and a voice boomed from behind me way, way back: “Bless you!” Now did someone say that or was it a sprite of a voice? Because if I was on a packed train and a little old lady sneezed next to me, and although I’m not ordained, I may say quietly, “Bless you, dear.” But I would not respond to a sneeze by someone half way up the blooming carriage. Who knows the answer? NOT ME!!!!!!!
I watched a television programme about children in the Gaza strip. How their lives have been obliterated, their innocence destroyed, their hatred fired and their hopes shot by adults! I cried tears of anger and sadness. Then it came to me again that I should correct this evil by taking my life. This thought had such a powerful impact. So I clenched my fists and said: “Think about it, Ange. You are NOT DIVINE. And it never worked for Jesus, anyway, who claimed he was.”
But then I thought: “What is divine anyway? Maybe I am divine. Maybe this is how it is, yet I don’t feel superior or invincible.” Then I thought: “Martyrdom hasn’t solved anything and I’d only destroy the lives of my own children, even if it was a beautiful peaceful world afterwards.”
So here I am.
Strangely enough, the other morning, at 6 a.m., I heard a young girl call out “Hello!” in a desperate way. And guess what – so did my daughter. The voice came from downstairs. My daughter called out to me, “Who the hell was that, Mom?”
Now we both hear voices. But this sharing malarkey gets you thinking, doesn’t it?
This is a sample article from Asylum 19.1. To access the latest issue in full, SUBSCRIBE HERE.