I would divide my moods into exact percentages but exactness is a dull thing; who is it that cares if every gumball machine holds 100 gumballs, if there is one that holds 101? Therefore I tell you something now and it is to be accepted as the absolute truth.
Right now I am half down with the flu, half drugged up by caffeinated panadol, half asleep in the 5:37am 8+ GMT Hong Kong time zone and half distracted by the card game on my laptop screen. I am a few more halves too, but you will not have those. Those are secrets that I hold in secret little quarters.
Meanwhile, let me tell you a story, one very close to my heart.
A woman was walking towards the train station one day with her purse overflowing with papers. She was walking in such a rush along the grey-egg speckled sidewalk and her bag was so crammed full that it came to no surprise to any onlooker that when a gust of wind came, all of her documents burst out and like ash scattered itself across the ground.
“Oh!” she shrieked. “I have no time for this! I have a meeting with a client in twenty four minutes and I have not been home to see my child in days.”
She looked around rather helplessly and began to gather her papers, starting with the ones closest to her. A young man who had been walking behind her and witnessed the scene began to collect papers too, but he started with the papers closest to and in the road. He collected all the he could and he brought his stack to her, his twice hers size and when she received it in her hands, she looked up at him from overtop two rounded, golden glasses frames.
“Is this all?” she asked. She began to sort through the papers, checking margins and page numbers, reorganizing the white sheets according to titles in the header. “Where’s page 13? Did you not find page 13? Page 13 was very important, you know.”
The passersby were bewildered to hear her response, but they did not berate her or slow their pace. They walked on and saw that the youth was smiling and apologizing. “I’m sorry ma’am, but that’s all I could get.” The youth wore a loose white T-shirt that traveled beyond his waist. Atop of his head he donned a red baseball cap, tilted to the side.
“Well, thank you in any case.” she said sharply. “I’m assuming that you want some kind of reward for your efforts. Young men always do, for doing something that they should for us ladies.” She withdrew a pocketbook from her purse, almost dislodging her papers once again. The youth started, but she snapped at him.
“Oh, settle down. It won’t be too much money. And if you think that you can just take my bag and my cheques, then let me reassure you. Every person round this train station knows the kind of fellow you are and will stop you, the moment I scream ‘Thief’. So you better settle down and just take what you deserve.”
The youth continued to smile. With a twinkle in his eye, he replied.
“Ma’am, I don’t need any reward. But a moment of your time, if I could.”
Again she peered from overtop her circular frames. Her eyes darted towards him and then towards the clock that sat next to the noticeboards for platforms.
“I have 17 minutes now, young man, and it will take me 10 minutes to get to where I need to be. So what is it? Walk with me and make it quick. Charity? Lost puppy? I’m not giving you my number, I am married and with child.”
The woman started to stalk away at a brisk pace, her suit pants waving in the wind, her papers once again frothing from the mouth of her purse. The youth, with his baggy pants trotted alongside of her, cheerfully. They passed by an information stand and two convenience stores, the scent of cinnamon traveling out of one and the aroma of coffee floating out of the other. They bounced down stairs and her heels clicked while the youth’s untied shoes occasionally tripped him, the aglets and tips of the lace dirtied black and brown. Their conversation shot back and forth in time with their footsteps.
“You’ve got a kid, ma’am? How old is he?” “Younger than you by a few years.” “What’s he like?” “He’s studious. Works when I’m not home.” “That’s good. What’s he like to do?” “He likes to talk.”
The youth paused.
“I like to talk. Is he as talkative as me?”
She gave no answer, but looked at the display-board for departures. One train was heading down west, not a minute off schedule. The placards flipped themselves every ten seconds and they flipped from top to bottom like a waves cresting and breaking on the beach.
“I guess you’re home quite a lot then, to hear him talking so much.”
“No, actually. I’m not home too often. I’m a busy woman. I pay for rent and food and his father pays for everything else. And in fact, my son is talkative, but he’s ungrateful. No respect. He tries to tell me that I don’t understand him. But I’m his mother. I am working for him, and he doesn’t understand that.”
She turned and stared into his eyes.
“Nor do you, I suppose. I’d tell you more, but I have a train to catch. I have 30 seconds to get down to the next platform, and after boarding that train I will be on the phone with a client that I am meeting in two hours. If you have anything important to say or ask, say it now.”
The youth smirked and his blue eyes twinkled once again. “I bet you only have 20 seconds now.”
With a huff the woman turned away. The train station clock, which had been sitting at 11:59:59 began to chime. The bell resounded through the cavernous train station concourse and though no other conversation had stopped, there was enough of a lull to hear the youth say clearly:
“Miranda Kerr. Born 1973. Married at 25 years of age, husband living in South-East Asia, sending money home every month. Miranda West after the marriage, though to men you still introduce yourself as Miranda Kerr and hide your wedding ring. Your child is named Denton West and you had what you were told was a stillborn birth two years prior to Denton.”
Miranda froze. She checked her wrist for the time even though she had stopped wearing watches since twelve years ago. Twenty seconds passed and underneath her, though unfelt, a train rumbled into and out of the station.
“That child didn’t die,” he said, smiling. “Hi, I’m Denton’s brother. I have no name.”
All around her leather heels clicked and clapped like the sound of icicles falling from a thawing roof. Another gust rushed through and clapped a white sheet to her face, where it was as pale as the spots without text. Then her face reddened and she extended her finger.
“Young man. Come with me.”
They sat at a coffee shop inside that very train station and her questioning had taken place over thirty minutes. She was barely able to weasel out of him an incomprehensible story, and during it’s retelling her stomach began to pain her in a familiar place.
“Who are you?” she had asked, but he had given no name. The bathroom stalls clacked and the toilet rolls rumbled as toilet paper was pulled free from their coils.
“How did you find me?”, she asked next, but he simply said that he had always been around, just too nervous to see her. Her face had been pale, but slowly it began to turn red in the mirror.
“How did you survive?” she asked last, but he was nonsensical in his reply.
“I did what I needed to do, all for this day, all so that I could meet you again, to be your son.”
Straightening her hair in the mirror, Miranda West even took the time to restack her pages in the correct order before returning to the table with her stillborn impostor. How disgusting it was, she thought to herself. Her face started to redden again but she cooled it with the back of her hands. A good thing that she had brought her purse with her, as stock full of important documents as it was. A competitor? she thought. Returning to the table, she glanced upwards towards the clock in the station and noted that it was quarter to two. Her wrist did not twitch.
Smiling, Miranda sat down.
“What do you want from me?”
The youth smiled back. Miranda supposed that he knew the jig was up, but that didn’t stop him from keeping pretense.
“I’m your son. I want to live with you. Under your roof. Be a family again. Eat dinner. Have Christmases together. Listen to Carol singers together.”
“We never listen to carols.” she lied. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“Not at all ma’am. I could also do with a name. Something like Denton, but maybe a letter before D. How about two letters for the two years? Benton. You could call me Benton.”
Her cuffs on the table, her fingers interlocked, Miranda squeezed her hand white as she ground her teeth together.
“Benton sounds great.” She unclenched her teeth as she took a sip from her cooled hot chocolate. “Who do you work for, Benton?”
“Postal service for now. Deliver mail on a bike. Look, ma’am, I just to be your son. I want to live under your roof. Want to be loved. I won’t even bother you. Once in a while I’ll come in to find you for some mother-to-son, totally normal lovin’, but beyond that, you won’t see me at all.”
Benton kept on smiling at her. She hated that smile now. She hated his red hat and his white T-shirt. She hated that the fact that his smile was like her husbands, and that once, her favorite color had been red. She only wore red now on her lips, everything else was black. She had worn black for a month after Benton –
– after her unborn child had died. She didn’t even know if she could say that he died. She laid thirty red roses in the snow by his grave but never returned to the grave, not more than once. Her face, which had been losing color, sparked red one last time. After all, she had an appointment to keep.
“I’ve got five minutes Benton, but I’m just going give you 30 seconds, because that’s all a scumbag like you deserves. I think it is despicable, underhanded, and downright unethical for you to be attacking me like this. I warn you. If I ever find out who you’re working for, I will bury you and your friends into the ground. I work hard for what I have made today. There is nothing that will take that away. Now you sit here, but I’m warning you, in ten seconds now I’m going call the cops. Hell, I’m going to call the cops right now.”
She removed her phone from her purse then, and several sheets spilled out. The youth wearing a crooked hat began to pick them up but Miranda thrust her finger out.
“Don’t you dare. Don’t you freaking dare.”
Collecting her papers with her heels, Miranda kept her finger pointed at the boy and hung up the phone.
“Get out of here.”
She turned away and stalked to her platform. From behind her, he called:
“Goodbye, ma’am. Or should I say for the first time and last, ‘Momma’.”
Tears of rage, she called them later on that day, ran down her face as she stalked away. Even if it were true, she worked hard to pay for one child and for her own future. Even if it were true, how could she love someone who she barely knew? She worked hard for Denton, and her only child didn’t love her back, didn’t talk to her when she returned. In fact, she had lied to the youth about her son. They never talked at all.
Later on that night Denton would ask her a question that she would never erase from her memory for as long as she lived.
“Had trouble at the train station? Ma’am?”
She didn’t say a word and never thought of Denton as her son ever again.
Yet that hadn’t happened yet. As she walked down the train station steps, the placards rolled from top to bottom like a wave. And just on time, a train pulled up to the station and rumbled out, bringing Miranda Kerr-West to her next appointment. For what it was worth, she made it exactly on time.
I hope you enjoyed this tale. It took me 1 hour and 36 minutes to write, written from 5:37 to 7:13. I did some minor editing. I’m extremely tired but extremely pleased to have churned out 2040 words. I’m currently working on some edits of some short stories that I once began/wrote a long time ago. This story’s setting is based on Copenhagen Central Station, which I visited just a month and a half ago. It was a magical place, but I believe that this setting could be based in any western, central train station. It’s a story very close to my heart but like I’ve been finding with many of my stories, I needed to get it out in one-go, or else risk that I never finish it. As such, please understand that this is a first draft and I will without a doubt, return to edit this story. The reasons for why I will explain in a separate blog post, for the reason that if you found something magical in this story, then the worst thing I could do is to degrade my own work or reveal the thought process (or trick/magic) behind the text.
Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.
UPDATE: I’m just going to post my notes below here. If you don’t want to lose the magic, don’t read what’s below! Sorry, not mentally uhh… ‘up’ enough to do the linking properly.
The piece is about a conflict between my parents and I. My mother is never home and has been manipulative of my family’s finances. I have known my friends for longer than I have known my mother. Ever since I was 6, both of my parents have been away from my home and are now like strangers to me. Yet despite being adults now (by the way I’m writing this as I’m dead tired, so apologies for the bad writing and whining), my mother remains manipulative, passive aggressive and not understanding of the family.
I wanted to turn it on the parent to see how they would respond if a child came out and suddenly said: “Hello, I’m your child”, instead of the parent coming back and saying: “I’m your mom”.
Things I wanted to change:
The ‘second part’ became a bit of a rush. I knew that I didn’t want to explain ‘Benton”s whole story, so I quite liked the way that I skipped time, but then the language became very… less fable, fantasy, dreamy-like as it was in the first half and more serious and character driven. Before the story walked it’s own pace, then it suddenly became Miranda’s pace. There’s a loss of flow that I will definitely rework when I rewrite it.
Anyway. Thanks for reading! Look forward to version 2.