The London Date (Piano Man chapter 3)

Camden Town tube station was, as per usual, filled to the brim with commuters, in various states of aggression. Some were plain peeved about the lateness of their train, others were swearing under their breaths. And a rare few actually resorted to pushing and shoving.

The sun was shining again, and I tried to enjoy it as much as I could, standing outside of the station, hopping from one foot to the other. I had made it there early enough, but the more I waited, the more I grew nervous of Tim’s intentions. I had no idea what he was up to.

At exactly nine o’clock sharp, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a very excited “Hello!” from behind me. I let out a little yell and turned around to see Tim munching on a strawberry bootlace.

“Want one? They’re quite appetizing!” he chuckled.

“Ehm… maybe later. So, where are you kidnapping me to?”

“Do not fret, my damsel in distress! I, the strawberry bootlace bandit, am not kidnapping you. I just wanted to show you some cool places. Good to go?”

He linked arms with me, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I tried to pull away. Fortunately, he noticed and let me go.

“Sorry, didn’t realize.” he said, smiling. He looked like a sprite with fluffy hair. “Am I that repulsive?”

“No, no, it’s not that. Look, let’s just go. Where are you taking me?”

“To a most enchanting world of brightly colored cupcakes. Come with me!”

As we scurried through the station to get to our train, Tim merrily chatted away about cupcakes and chocolate torts and all things delicious. I assumed he was taking me to a bakery.

And I was right.

A few stops and blocks later, we arrived at a little quaint bakery in Soho. I instantly saw the appeal. Bright colors everywhere, even on their cakes.

As I browsed the counter, looking for something appealing, Tim leaned in and whispered, “Chocolate cherry bomb.”. I turned to him, again confused by what he had said.

“That one over there.” he said, pointing towards a small, rich looking chocolate cake. “Try it. It will make you ascend to the skies.”

With slight hesitation, I ordered that cake and sat down with him, in the cosy looking corner of the shop.

I watched Tim eagerly eat his strawberry cheesecake, and played around with a piece of the chocolate bomb. The childlike joy he showed for this piece of cake was warming my heart of ice.

“So…” he said between bites. “Why aren’t you tasting your cake?”

It caught me off guard. I was so preoccupied with watching him eat, that the cake on my plate didn’t seem important.

“Taste!”

He leaned in and whispered, “It will make you feel tingly on the inside. I promise.”

His promise lead me to pick up the morsel I was playing with and hesitantly, I tasted the chocolate cherry bomb.

The rich taste of the chocolate and the cherry combined did something peculiar to my mood. It made me smile.

“Ah, I knew you’d smile! It’s great, isn’t it? Just all these wonderful flavors exploding in your mouth, just toying with your senses. That’s why I took you here. It’s something you have to experience.”

I could only smile. His charming nature had an infectious effect.

“So, my sparkling Jem. When did you last sing to yourself?”

“Excuse me? Sing to myself? I don’t do that.”

Of course I was lying.

“Come on, when was the last time you sang a merry tune to no-one in particular?”

I thought of the day before, when I sang Anthem to a Garden Gnome to myself at the coffeeshop.

“Yesterday.”

“Ah, wonderful. What did you sing?”

“Nothing in particular. Just a…. a little ditty I heard. About a garden gnome.” I admitted, slightly blushing. His face lit up.

“I knew my music did something to you! Did it make you feel all fuzzy on the inside?”

“I don’t know. I just had it in mind.”

“Good! That’s the intention of my music. I’m glad it made you smile, Jem. You seem like you need it.”

My mind trailed off again. I tried to remember the last time I smiled. It hit me that it was on David’s last birthday, as I watched him blow out the candles of his cake. The memory was so vivid, down to the taste of the chocolate cherry cake….

“Jem?”

In the distance, I heard Tim calling my name. But I felt lost in my own thoughts.

“Jem? Do you want to go somewhere else?”

I nodded. Leaving the cake alone, we set off on a long walk. All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about David feeding me a piece of the cake he had insisted he’d bake himself.

I felt quite uncomfortable in the hustle and bustle of Soho. And I tried my very best keeping up with Tim’s frantic pace of walking. The panic set in hard, and I involuntarily grabbed on to something.

A warmth engulfed my hand. It felt quite nice instead of the bone-chilling cold that usually went through them. Tim turned to me and smiled brightly.

That’s when I realized that I was holding his hand. I quickly pulled back, but he gently took my hand in his and linked arms with me.

“It’s not scary, is it?” he said, before pulling me through the crowds towards Soho Square, where we found a quiet spot to sit.

I watched couples sitting on benches, and in the grass near the little house in the middle. The envy I felt for their togetherness was something awful. Feeding the birds, kissing, holding each other close… I couldn’t stand it.

But Tim felt it.

“If I could wake up tomorrow with one new ability, it would be photography. So I could take beautiful pictures of these places I go. Capture the enchantment.” he said, gazing at the sky. “You?”

Glad that he had distracted me, I pondered the question.

“I don’t know. I’d probably want the ability to dance. Can’t dance at all. Yours sounds nice, but doesn’t memory capture the enchantment more than just a picture?”

“Ah, but when you have a picture, you have a memory you can see. Something tangible other than a concept.”

“I don’t like pictures. Just don’t like them.”

“And why is that?”

“Memories. Fragments of moments that can never come back. I’d rather have them in my head and let them fade away than have them handy to break me down wherever possible.”

Tim leaned in to whisper. “Don’t let memories break you down. Let them keep you alive and happy. Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Yes. Yes I do.” I said, further warmed by the kindness of a man I had only known for three days.

Walking through the streets, in search of somewhere to eat, I suddenly felt my heart glowing. It was the most overwhelming thing. I stopped for a minute, clutching my chest, thinking that I was having a heart attack.

“Are you alright?” asked Tim, turning to me.

“I don’t know. I just feel very… very warm.”

He smiled again. “That’s good! People need to feel warm on the inside. Come on, I know the perfect place to go!”

Tim lead me towards a small eatery. It seemed like all he was up to was eating. Not that I was complaining, but I wondered if there was a motive behind this.

I quizzed him over a shared plate of fish and chips.

“I’m not sure why you are intent on stuffing me with food…” I said, whilst taking a bite of a spicy chip.

“I’m not sure either. But tell me, did it get your mind off whatever’s breaking you down? Did you feel even marginally better when you did take that bite of cake? Or was that a hurtful memory too?”

It didn’t feel right, elaborating on the memory of David. Especially to another man, one who seemed to peer right into my soul.

So, I simply said, “Yes.”

“Then you should eat more of it. Create happy memories with cakes in them! Let brightly colored cupcakes and devilish Red Velvet sing to your tastebuds! Don’t let bad memories get you down.”

Tim pricked a piece of battered cod on his fork and again, I was drawn to the way he ate with so much joy. I hadn’t enjoyed food in months.

But there was something about this plate of food that made me incredibly happy. That made my tastebuds hum in delight.

Right then and there, I decided I was always going to associate chocolate cherry cake with this day.

In bed that night, after eating our way through London, I felt full. And for the first time in months, it was a happy full.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m quite enjoying the interplay between these two. You have done a remarkable job capturing their at-times uneasy closeness. Bonus points for putting thoughts of delicious cakes and such in my head; I’ve just had lunch and am craving dessert.

    -Jack

    Reply

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