We've forgotten the old rule of taxicabs, that the last place to find one is a rank. All cab ranks are equipped with black holes, and any taxi foolhardy enough to approach is sucked in and deposited in an alternative universe. We've been in the queue a quarter of an hour.
A shout from the pavement behind us: "What's going on?" In the doorway of the yuppie chain-pub by the station entrance, a man and a woman in their late thirties are struggling, and the faces in the line take on that tight set that greets the sighting of the London drunk. He has on cowboy boots and satin shirt and one of those bootlace tie things; his face is bright red and his fine hair slightly matted on the back of his neck. She is the picture of respectability: ankle-length Laura Ashley, expensive leather coat, leather tote bag, tidy hair. I make an assumption and can feel the same one work its way down the line: poor cow. It's only half past six on a Saturday night. Sometimes it all seems out of kilter on weekends. You long for the dullness of Mondays.
He's staggering around her. She stares into space. He keeps trying to get a grip on her body, shouting "Come ON!" She continues to ignore him. Suddenly, he stands back, fists on hips. She simply keels over onto the pavement, landing on her back with her arms in the air like a dead beetle. People step round her while she waves her fingers stiffly and he shouts: "No! I won't!" and "Get up! Get up!"
Eventually, he gives her a hand, and she regains her feet. He's as steady as a rock. He hugs her for a moment, then props her in the doorway. Her hands are still waving about by her shoulders while her face is impervious because she literally can't move the muscles of her face. "I'm sorry," she's mumbling, "I'm sorry." "What are we going to do?" he says. "I don't know." "Come on." Putting an arm round her shoulders, he guides her tottering through the rush-hour traffic to the cab rank.
His red face is terribly, terribly sad. "You promised," he says, "you promised you weren't going to do this any more. You said that was going to be the last time."
All she can articulate is another mumbled "I'm sorry". A taxi works its way down the hill and pulls up in front of us. Silently, the queue parts to let the pair through.Reuse content