Whilst admiring the resplendent nubs of a pigeon that squats on a Central Station bench five feet away, I am struck by the magnificence of biological life. It’s good to see you again, old friend I beam telepathically to the shabby-chic glimmer of consciousness pecking at the floor for whatever nutrients dust can yield. The divergent paths we’ve been on since we parted ways a hundred million years ago have been fraught with their own unique dangers, but we both made it to the here and now; and it really is good to see her.
Having missed the 23:17 train, due to my dalliance with the old friend I had serendipitously bumped into beneath the big clock, I huddle under the canopy of the Gordon Street exit, with the other tannoy oblivious smokers, to await the 23:47.
Tomorrow is the day of my twenty-first birthday and I am heading back to my home-home to be with my family who I haven’t seen for a month or two despite the relative geographical closeness.
The morning had seen an envelope from my brother airdropped onto the grimy floor of my student flat; enclosed was a card, the epithet of which read It’s all downhill from here. There was also a fiver.
Next to me a woman is reading a book about milestones amid sips of coffee and the occasional drag of an unclicked dual cigarette. Our eyes catch occasionally and bolstered by my birth I decide to prompt a conversation.
“Did you know that there are one point six kilometrestones in a milestone?” I offer with a smile.
She looks at me with bemusement and hesitation before closing her book, stamping out her cigarette, and heading back into the station.
The conceptual metaphor that life is a journey – I piously ponder amid poisonous puffs – does not sit well with me. Perhaps it is to do with the implied destination inherent in the journey metaphor or, perhaps it is a post-traumatic response to watching Glee as a child. Whatever it is – it fills me with unease.
Milestones are foundational figments of the journey metaphor. They imply, not only, that life is the traversion of fictitiously paved paths, but that these roads are charted with desirable, predestined routes to follow. However, aren’t many of these megaliths merely cultural residue – remains, no doubt, of Roman expansion – the guidance of which has led us, unwittingly, into the Anthropocene?
If, on a walk through the Yorkshire Dales, you spied an ancient stone beckoning you to wander along an old road that snaked down the hillside and into a recently constructed reservoir, would you trust its mossy authority and press ahead? Or would you perhaps look at an up-to-date ordnance map to assess a more sensible route?
Tonight, according to the age-old practice, my compatriots and I will gallantly guzzle gallons of ale in an attempt to symbolically mark the occasion of my transcendence to level two of adulthood. Perhaps, as the stout and rum and tequila and coffee-liqueur fill my stomach, and I look lovingly at the faces of my friends, I will be reminded of the rising of other liquids and the effect that has on my other friends. The old markers are becoming submerged; the only part still visible: a nub protruding from the water’s skin.
Goodbye, dear friend I beam finally as I board the thirteen minutes to midnight train go-ing eh-knee-where; calling at Crossmyloof, Pollokshaws West, Thornliebank, Giffnock, Busby, Thorntonhall, Hairmyres, East Kilbride, and Ecological Collapse, where this train will terminate.
[Alexander Leven – he / him]
[Image credit: Arif Kavak/flickr.com]