by Anna Chen
6th April 2009
High above the great metropolis the sky was blue, the breeze was light and the trees were in blossom. It was the first day of the year that hinted at the arrival of spring and they were in love. The kind of love that throws up that magical bubble of crazy happiness around your Nation Of Two and renders you invisible to your fellow citizens. At least that’s how it felt. The thought that people weren’t looking out of politeness, embarrassment or had just eaten breakfast and didn’t want to lose it, never entered their collective mind as it floated somewhere over north London.
But it didn’t matter. They were as one and, in this moment, would always be as one. This was ninja love, invisible to all but the most elect sensate beings. Lips velcroed, tongues araldited, eyes shuttered, osculation making ambulation an exciting game of chance with only a few bruises to show for it, they drifted slo-mo in their alien time-scale, oblivious to the waves of homicidal rage from the city commuters with somewhere to be, something to do, looming deadlines and all the rest of the baggage a cruel world could impose. The poor lost fools. If only they took time out and tuned in to the love radiating from the couple with the mashed faces, human relations would be revolutionised overnight.
On this bright morning — or was it around lunch, time being a moveable feast under the influence of Aphrodite and her chubby cherub with the pointy projectiles — they headed off to the tube station to take in a day of culture. They would dine like royalty — albeit French royalty circa 1789 — on a picnic of bargain sushi from the chain of Japanese automats springing up all over the city like knotweed, their love immunising them from the risk of gastric complications brought on by raw fish and the imperfect refrigeration of a deregulated catering industry. They looked forward to their stroll across Hungerford Bridge, a name still indelibly associated in the minds of many with an unfortunate slaughter in the west of England, but not for the lovers, whose clear vision of humanity’s capacity for beauty and compassion in glorious technicolour eclipsed all monochromatic ugliness.
They would immerse themselves in the high and mid-brow — mostly mid-brow — art of the South Bank where they would embrace in front of the Bacons, tremble by the Twombleys, and rudely view the Rodin. OK, on this stretch the street performers lacked the expertise, artistry and verve of their New York counterparts, the theatre was full of crowdpleasing schlock, the cinema screened Beowulf in 3D, the concert halls aired the greatest TV themes and a Liberace retrospective, but it was their playground and they loved it.
The tube train was almost empty. Great! More kissing opportunities. His unspoken mission was to snog her until she bled. She’d already swooned like a delicate Victorian Miss with an 18-inch waist and the blood-pressure of a dormouse. The fact that she was built like the Mongol Horde and dressed like a yeti at this tail end of winter made his ambition all the more touching.
They took the seats along the side of the carriage and turned to each other, him with his back to the engine in case of accidents – you couldn’t be too careful but he always managed it somehow – her facing front, because it kept at bay the projectile vomiting that occasionally threatened to overwhelm her in moments of moderate excitement.
He pulled out his bottle of Carex antibacterial hand-gel because he had touched the button of the tube train door, and offered her a squirt. She smiled gratefully and accepted his kindness, appreciating the metaphor. Thus both cleansed they moved in for the kiss.
Stretching time: that’s what they did well. Each two-minute journey between stations drawn out into a here-and-now never-ending tube of Big Love.
Their faces meshed, tongues probed, vacuum-packed gobbage puckered up as lungs sucked out all the air. She knew it showed off her cheek bones and pulled in her facial chub, rendering her beautiful in his eyes from even this close a vantage point. To him, his stereoscopic vision shot due to a childhood malady, she was as huge as a 60-foot movie goddess on the silver screen, only without the merciful lighting craft of masters. But true love soft-focuses you, polyfillas every tiny crease, airbrushes every enlarged pore, photoshops every stray hair missed in your daily depilation. Would there ever come a day when they would betray her under the relentless interrogation of the searing searchbeam of the clarity of his vision once sanity reasserted itself? Never mind. For now, they were as one.
No one could have foreseen the accident, least of all the driver, with his nose in The Sun and his cheddar and pickle sandwiches wedging the dead-man’s handle at Go position.
Up ahead, the hedge-fund manager, whose triple-height riverside apartment carved from a red-brick warehouse that was once a thriving hub of employment for East End dockworkers had just gone into negative equity, and who faced meltdown of his fat assetts, ate his last meal of lobster and roquette croquette washed down with a nice Krug, abandoned his Beamer on a double-yellow and made his way to Waterloo underground station. Folding his copy of the FT and placing it in his foetal pigskin attaché case alongside his Mont Blanc pen, he moved to the platform’s edge. Taking a deep breath of the underground air made up largely of skin particles sloughed off by aeons of commuters, he allowed himself to topple slowly into the path of the oncoming train.
The driver hit the brakes; the new enhanced hydraulic braking system, installed only that month by the private company and their subsidiaries and subcontractors on pain of a fine that stretched into two figures. Four, if you counted the thirty-two pence. Cheese and Branston and watercress garnish flew up in a cloud of crumbs and into his eyes, blinding him to the tragedy credit-crunching and ripping away beneath him. And behind him.
Drifting ever deeper into their reverie where time stopped and hearts slowed in unison, she’d felt a slight increase of pressure and given into it, even as it continued in a wave of bliss. He must be riding an even bigger wave of passion than usual, she thought, and opened herself to him, relaxing as he pressed further … and further.
First the teeth went, cracking and splintering through the cushion of lips. Then jaw and cranial tissue. His sinuses unblocked for an instant and then reblocked as noses collapsed, cartilage leading bone. Cheeks and brow ridges collided and ground crushingly with inexorable momentum. His frontal lobe was tougher as he had the solid caucasian ridge closer to Homo Sapiens’ Australopithecus while the flatter more highly evolved profile of her Asiatic origins offered her less protection. But collapse it did, splintering and splatting claret and grey matter. But it only mattered for a nanosecond. They’d had but one mind and now they were joined in a single brain.
Yes, this all took place in a split second, but, y’know, time was stretched out like the skin on a bubble of gum blown by a bored teenager at half-term. Their hearts slowed. She waited for the next beat. But it never came. They were found in the wreckage of the concertinaed carriage, like a Man Ray or a Chapman Brothers exhibit they might have seen that very afternoon in the Tate. Their hair perfect: his fine and fair, hers long, raven cables. In the fireman’s torchlight they could be made out. One perfect sphere of neverending love.
And that is the risk you run when you snog in public.
© Anna Chen 2009