I Am Not Alan

July 27, 2010

You are uncomfortable. The day outside has turned unexpectedly cold but the air in the underground remains hot and stagnant. Two micro-climates collide irritably in the sweat underneath your collar. You do not believe summer will ever come, but as it stands you are over-heating, rapidly.

‘I think it will be October forever,’

You announce too loudly. You are in an affected mood and think you are in a play.You rail, your arms flailing.

‘It’s June,’ I say.


You glower darkly and twist and turn in your seat, your neck craning awkwardly for attention. You always make a scene on public transport. I am glad the train was too full for me to sit next to you today.

We pull into a station, and wait. The doors open. The doors close. We do not move. A public announcement threatens. Then the voice, nicely spoken but stern, invades the carriage:

‘This is a passenger announcement.’


She can’t hear you. She says her vowels strangely: her aas and ees are too long.

‘Will Alan please come to the ticket hall, where his carer is waiting for him.’

Whoever he is, Alan does not depart from our carriage. Or indeed the train, because the voice repeats:

‘Will Alan please come to the ticket hall, where his carer is waiting for him.’

I think I would like to meet the voice.


You are growing louder. One more time, the voice cries out:

She smiles at you.‘Will Alan please -’


You rail, your arms flailing.

People stare.


You glare back at them.

‘I am NOT Alan,’

You announce to the carriage. I think maybe they wish you were.

Obscurely self-satisfied, you sit. The woman next to you looks you up and down suspiciously. You do likewise. I brace myself.

You are listening intently– but I cannot make out what to. You stick your finger in your left ear, shake your head, and lean towards the plastic bag on your neighbour’s lap.

You look at me, alarmed, and then back to the bag. Eyes staring, wide and round,

‘What’s in the bag,’

You ask the woman. She smiles at you.

‘Please?’ You ask, ‘Tell me.’

Your face screwed up in concentration, your wrinkled forehead off-sets your eye-patch ridiculously.confused little face

She beckons you to come closer. The bag rustles and you jump back in fright. She stills the shaking plastic and you close in, take a deep breath and peak inside.

Delight paints your features pink.

‘Pigeon,’ she says.

‘Pigeon,’ you repeat.

I can tell you want one of your own.

‘What does Pigeon eat?’

You want to know.

She takes a slice of bread out of her pocket, breaks it up and drops it into the bag. You clap your hands.

As we leave the train I catch a glimpse of the bird’s confused little face.

‘Now I’ve made a new friend too,’

You say.

I know you mean the pigeon.

I know you mean the pigeon