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Emma Ward
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one49.jpg
Art by Noelle Richardson

One.Four.Nine.

 

by Emma Ward

 

 

This is London Bridge and I am out of context. I do not do this. I do not sit on the top of double-decker buses and watch. I do not loop the loop for hours around this city’s darkness. I do not refuse forceful inner voices: “It’s late. Go home.” I do not ignore. I obey. I get on the bus. I go to work. I get on the bus. I go home. I do not wait. I just go home. Home to yesterday and tomorrow. Home to dead mice and baby tears.

 

Yet, I want to ride this big red London bus all night long.

 

This is Bank Station and I want the best seat in the house—top deck, front left. I want that wide windscreen to the gloom to take away the tightness in my chest. I want my reflection to look at me gently across Threadneedle Street and smile. I want to read with my feet up and prowl every row, road, circus in the city.

 

Yes, I want to ride this big red London bus all night long.

 

This is Liverpool Street and I want someone else’s hand to fall in the unidentifiable mucus on the handrail. I want to giggle as a girl sneezes under strip lighting at the stench of her own perfume. I want to quiet the suited man outside, who twists his fingers round his ears and screams “You mental cunt of a bitch!” in his bewildered girlfriend’s face, as we drive past. I want his girl to turn and walk her shadow away into the reductive safety of streetlamp light.

 

This is Shoreditch High Street and I want to eat a crisp from another passenger’s packet. I want to wink through the window at Hoxton lesbians to see their smoking girlfriends get angry and proud outside dimly-lit pubs. I want big- pupiled students to mosey out of closing clubs and chat shit in the seat behind me. I want to smirk across the aisle at the slurs of city workers who tell their wives that they are not drunk down futuristic telephones.

 

I want to think. I want to look.

 

This is Hackney Road and I want Mahler and glitch techno to pursue my ears through the mild May witching hour’s open estate windows. I want to dream of smoking pot on a beach with a mad Polish Iron Maiden fan. I want to regret jilting that girl who was so kind to me. I want to regret jilting that boy who offered only love. I want to regret not feeling, and feel. I want the solidity of life to fizz an effervescent dissolution in the liquidity of my spirit. I want to wonder how these hours could ever be described as small.

 

I want my bus to drive on.

 

This is Kingsland Road and I want to look away as a night owl skinhead projects hawked brown phlegm out of an openmouthed cough. I want to swallow hard at the sight of two policemen who scare from a metre away, who wait for nastiness nasty enough, then depart, benign tumors in uniform. I want to raise my eyebrows at a cyclist’s red light cut fine. I want to cheer inwardly at a joyrider’s red light jumped. I want to ring the bus bell into the empty street. Five times. Ten times. I want chewing gum circles to join forces on the floor.

 

This is Dalston Junction and I want to smell damp marijuana sighs from the cheap polyester jackets of a teenage gang who say I am racist and threaten to rape me. I want to shiver from my quadriceps to my crown, in freedom and relief, when these night terrors get off at the next stop. I want my stern fearfulness to stop its mantra, “It’s late. Go home.”

 

This is Shacklewell Lane and I want to hear an MC’d prayer from a crackhead clinging onto God. I want to know if his nocturne’s Lord God in tha name o’ Jesus Christ is up there. I want life to sooteh my hangover, bring hope to my heart and ever-freeing acceptance of despair to my head. I want this wonderful tantrum to go on forever. I want to feel anything but nothing.

 

I want to drive on.

 

I will not go back.

 

I will hold “right this second” in my left hand and “just one minute” in my right, and keep vigil on the “One.Four.Nine to . . .”

 

 

Emma Ward has been on the road alone for almost two years and is just about broke, but not especially worried about it because it happens a lot. She spent most of her money wandering across the Stans and staring out of the windows of bleak Soviet tower blocks. She stares out of the window too much. She used to work for the Government. She liked the people, but worried it didn't suit her because she’s stubborn and likes her own way. She writes a lot. Her friends are naming babies, she's working on pen names. In person, she talks like someone put her sentences through an internet translation website. It's incoherent because she’s awkward. People think she’s a bit weird. She is a bit weird. She studied Literature at Oxford which she thinks means she probably won't get anywhere, because the best writers dropped out of school. She's just moved to Scotland to study for a Literature Masters. She had romantic visions of heather and whisky, but in fact, it is mostly cold. She is 32, pretty old to go back to university, but it seemed like the best way to spend a year sitting in bed reading books in her pants.

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