THE SCENE: a perfectly normal Jubilee train, normal people travelling home from their normal jobs. Pulling into Bermondsey, a Muslim guy got up and stood in the doorway.
He wasn’t a big guy. But he was wearing a very, very bulky coat. What I noticed most were the wires trailing out of it.
And as he stood there, he …. raised his arms and started chanting. The singsong murmurings of a muezzin or imam, the tone-poems of an ancient faith gone bad.
OK, I thought. That’s it. It’s all over. 35 years old, not a bad innings I suppose; my primeaval ancestors rarely made it past 30. In ten seconds I’ll be just a blur of scarlet graffiti, and no future nanotech reanimator will be able to defrag that.
You know the thing about your life flashing before your eyes? It really does. Gliding drifting flying in the space behind my eyelids; explosions of jittering fastforward replaying things I thought I’d forgotten. Childhood memories. The first adult ones. A chorus of names, people standing up and pointing accusing fingers, mouthing YOU. I make my final thought. And it’s not about who I expected.
Most of all, there’s the sense that I won’t just die, I’ll be GONE. Nothing left. Instantaneously zonked into my component molecules. This wasn’t how I expected it to end. What happened to the mountainside Japanese temple at daybreak? The summer’s day by the riverbank with a glass in my hand? The final showdown with giant snakes in the dark richness of a rainforest? Even an autoerotically inspired self-inflicted hanging in a hotel room would be preferable to this; it’d entertain people.
As the doors open, the Muslim guy lowers his hands from the handrail, which he’d been holding on to for support. He adjusts the trailing cable of his iPod… as the chant he’d been singing along to finishes. And steps off the train.
I walk home with my heart still doing 180. I’ve given up drinking at home on weekdays, but tonight I bought a bottle of Rioja and necked it in 14 minutes straight.