It’s 4am. I’m cold. I figure I’m stuck here for at least another two hours. I’m tired, hungover, alone, and I want to go home.
Some birthday this is turning out to be.
Brighton. I love Brighton. I love it because it’s not London, because the air is fresh, because it’s filled with hippies and homosexuals and really, really pissy seagulls. I have a terrible taste for freshly fried doughnuts and bland gay bars, chips and cheap lager. And being on my own. Being on my own is almost as enjoyable as being on my own with no other people around me.
The day of my 28th birthday, I was just going to sit home and work on my dissertation; the meal and the club were sorted for the following day. I was experiencing a blissful respite from the depression which tore a hole through that year and was all set for a day of working (read: playing Terran Conflict and feeling guilty) when a mate convinced me that I had to at least do something.
So I walked to London Bridge, bought a ticket, and got on a train for Brighton. Just for the day, mind.
My problem with Brighton is that after I’ve meandered around all the low class hippy shops and the high class hippy shops and the markets and had a fight with the pissy seagulls and snaffled my fill of chips and freshly fried doughnuts, my natural homing instinct takes me to Revenge; a bland gay bar featuring homosexuals and cheap lager. And my problem with that is that after a couple of pints I realise I don’t want to go home soon but would rather stay for a few more. I decamp to a much better gay bar and continue drinking cheap lager and scribbling in my notebook.
And I stay.
Eventually I start looking up spare hotel rooms, as I did on this evening, but there’s never anything available. At least nothing in my price range, which is admittedly a bit like saying there’s never any racing cars suitable for my driving aptitude. Still, I try not to let this deter me from getting another pint.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
It isn’t going anywhere good.
“Naw, you can stay with us! We’ve got a hotel room!”
I have no idea where I found them, but I was with them. Couple of guys staying at the Amsterdam, we ended up doing a gay bar crawl, them convincing me I didn’t need to get a train home at all. Just travel early tomorrow morning, then lunch with friends, then clubbing. Simple!
Everything’s simple when you’re wasted.
I’d already said I wasn’t going to sleep with either of them; I don’t do drunken one night stands and anyway, I didn’t fancy either of them. They were totally cool with that! Just crash back at theirs’, it’s all good! And did I want another drink? Of course I wanted another drink! Shall we go clubbing? Of course we should go clubbing! Another drink?
So he’s got his tongue in my ear.
Of course he’s got his tongue in my ear. Sat in an overlit cheap hotel room on a firm double bed, his partner stripping off.
Well. This is awkward.
Why? Why do guys never believe me?! It’s not a fucking hard-to-get line, FFS, it’s the honest to God truth. Jesus.
Often I’d just be polite and go along with it – Lord knows how many times I’ve slept with people just because it seemed unBritish to say no. But as I’ve got older I hold less and less with that and this was probably the first time I just got up and told them that they’d really, really got the wrong end of the stick. Or I had. Whatever. Whatever, it meant that I walked out of the room, out of the hotel, and onto the cold, rainy night streets of Brighton. On my birthday.
We’d left the club early, so it was only around midnight. Fuzzy under all the beers I clambered up to the station, last train in an hour. I huddled outside the station with all the howling, screeching groups who, like me, had ended their night out and were returning home. Although I admit it’s unlikely any of them had ended their night out like me.
I got the train! I actually got on the train, returning to London; admittedly on a train full of braying and beer, like the train from Brighton pride only without the whistles (or gays). Tried to ignore it and sleep but even my alcohol sodden brain couldn’t switch off; bright lights, shouting, howling and squealing. Ugh. People. Just, ugh.
Still, I made it back to London. Hooray!
I try to be clever, sometimes. Sometimes I try to be clever and I should stop.
The train pulled in, everyone poured out and and I moved to get off. And I paused. We weren’t on the right side of the river yet and if I got off now, I’d have to get a bus back to mine; if I waited ’til the next stop I could just walk it.
Wisely, I sat down. The train doors beeped, slid closed, and the train began to chug over the Thames. I sat smug at my own quick thinking, knowing I’d now be home a lot sooner.
The lights went out.
I mean there’s nothing you can do, is there? Phone battery dead, night world speeding by outside, silent and dark in the carriage. It was exciting, of course it was exciting; where the was I being taken? When would it stop?! What would they say when they found me, drunk and confused, at whatever depot it was going to? And seeing the world from this side; usually you only see the worlds that you’re a part of. To be shown the way the world carries on without you, still ticking over. That was cool. That was exciting.
For about two fucking minutes.
I was alone on a train speeding through South East England, which was only stopping to allow other trains to pass. The lights had gone out and it was becoming increasingly apparent the heating had gone out, too. It was the middle of winter and as the beer wore off and the chill began to bite I pulled my cold coat around me and tried to ignore the absurdity of my situation and sleep.
Of course I couldn’t sleep; the situation was absurd.
I was tracing my path back down to Brighton. I’d spent ages in the cold and rain waiting for this bloody train to take me back North to London and now I was passing through exactly the same stations as it speeded South. This was most definitely not getting me home sooner and I’ve really got to stop trying to be clever.
Eventually the train halted. Ahah! I thought. Now I’ll be discovered. Hooray.
Apparently, once a train has been zooming for an hour through the country, lights off, heating off, and reached it’s terminus, they don’t do a quick sweep to see if any innocent bystanders have been caught up in the excitement. Of course they don’t. What kind of idiot would find themselves in the absurd situation of being trapped on a not-in-service train in the middle of the night?
I huddled into my coat, I huddled down on the wire-wool seats. Tried to sleep, in the cold, alone, hungover. Some fucking birthday.
Eventually what had been the 1am train from Brighton became the 6:30am from Three Bridges. Lights on, doors open, commuters piled on. I like to think no-one gave me funny looks. I got home, eventually. Got showered and went to meet my mates for my birthday meal.
Nothing is simple when you’re wasted.
So I get off the train, cold and sleep deprived and – frankly – grey. Make my way to the ticket booth, explain why I’m travelling on yesterday’s day return.
“So I got drunk and ended up staying on the train, you see! Hah! I’ve spent all night at Three Bridges waiting to get back here, hah! So can you just let me through, I’m freezing and hungover and tired”
The ticket guy looks at me, wearily.
“£20 for a new single, sir”