I meet her near the station, stumbling a little. I steady her.
‘This little scrap of flesh,’ she says. ‘How does it keep going, eh?’ She laughs to herself.
And I suppose we all that wonder sometimes, when we wake at 3.00am, the weight of the world like a paving slab on our chest.
How will we keep going? How do we?
But she hasn’t finished: ‘This human being we offer to the world, the one we brush up and put on show – I mean, look at me! How do I get up in the morning? Well, sometimes I don’t.’
And then, by the ticket machine, she starts a list, (which I abbreviate) to explain what assaults this scrap of desperate flesh.
She is shocked by war without mercy
Fearful of the bomb
Frightened by the bloody price of everything
Anniversaries of loss, so many
Anxious as hell for the planet
Broken by a family feud
Disappointed with friends
Uncertain about work
Sick at unfairness, ‘you wouldn’t believe!’
Hurt by a neighbour
Powerless over politics
‘If I let all that lot in, I’d drown in the flood.’ We’re through the ticket barrier now. ‘I would break and snap – game over for this scrap of flesh. It cannot be carried; not by anyone.’
I see her point; it’s all too much for our frail selves. I wonder how I carry on sometimes, this little scrap of flesh I call me. I wonder how peace arrives; how peace can ever arrive.
And so, as we arrive on the platform, I ask my new friend how she survives.
‘I let go of it all.’
‘Do what I can, obviously. Do what I can. Walk as kind as I can; speak with my heart and from my heart, very important.’ Her train pulls in. ‘Water the tulips, gaze on the moon – and then yes, bloody let go of it all. It’s not as if I’m the messiah.’
Though as her train pulls out, she smiles and I sense she’s not unrelated.