February 21st, 1989
I heard the train pulling into the station the second I stepped out of the taxi this morning. Made a mad dash across the concourse with the sound of Sandra’s voice in my head shouting, “No running whilst in uniform!”
Halfway down the second flight of stairs, I thought I was going to throw up, but I knew if I paused, even for a second, I’d miss the train.
I stood beside the luggage racks as the train pulled out of the station, trying to collect myself together. In the toilet, I avoided looking in the mirror as I smoothed my hair down then took a few deep breaths.
All I could see, walking through each carriage was a sea of drowsy commuters, the majority of who were deeply involved in their relationship with coffee and newspapers. I had just about given up any hope of a seat, when I spotted Lee sitting in the middle of the carriage, with a vacant seat beside him. When I was a few rows away from him, he looked up and I mouthed, “thank you.”
I sat down and didn’t dare break the silence of the other passengers. I noticed Lee had a notepad open in front of him and was writing down a series of numbers in various columns.
I closed my eyes and a minute later, I felt Lee nudging me. When I opened my eyes, he slid the notepad across the table to me. On a new page, he’d written, “I don’t think wearing sunglasses on the train is in keeping with uniform regulations.”
Smirking, I scribbled, “I feel like death warmed up. You wouldn’t happen to have anything for a raging headache, would you?”
Lee clicked the locks on his briefcase open and rooted around in the inside pocket, with a level of discretion that failed to gather any attention from the two men sitting across from us. Lee twisted open the top of a small, brown glass bottle and shook several tablets into the palm of his hand. He passed two tablets to me and without asking what they were, I popped both of them in my mouth and swallowed them. From behind my sunglasses, I noticed Lee doing the same.
I scribbled, “Thank you for the tablets. How bad is your hangover?”
He wrote, “Shocking. I’ve never, ever been as drunk as I was last night. Ever. Now I know why people say never again.”
“And yet…” I wrote.
“No, I mean it, never again. I’ve never taken the last train home, either.”
“First time for everything.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day.”
“Stay hydrated and eat lots.”
“Will that help?”
“I have no idea, but that’s what I plan to do. I need to sleep now. See you at Euston.”
“I’m sure snoring in uniform is against uniform regulations. I’ll wake you if you do.”
“It is. And thank you.”