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The Sea Within, at Leicester Station

It was 13:14 in the afternoon at Leicester Station, and Abe was sat on an unforgiving metal bench, phone in hand, waiting for his train. Delays, delays, delays. In America, the trains were as precise as clockwork, but in this country Abe couldn’t help but feel a slight randomness to the schedule. He had been at the station so long now that even the novelty of hearing the British lady say over the intercom in her perfect Queen’s English “the next train to arrive on platform one…” had begun to wear a bit thin.

    Abe had stopped listening to it in truth anyway. He was too busy with his phone call.

    “Oh, alright,” said Abe with a look of confusion. “But…”

    He was cut short by the person on the other end of the phone. He sat, and listened. As he did so, he looked down to his ox-blood brogues, and admired their shine. That polish did the trick alright. It was strange how a man dressed so smartly in a dark navy suit and presentable shoes could feel quite so stupid in this moment.

    “But is there any way I can…” he began, but was cut short again. He accidentally nudged his leather bag with his foot as he fidgeted in his uncomfortable seat.

    He glanced at the electronic board: more delays. More randomness. 

    Abe only passively noticed the influx of people waiting at the station. Impatient and irritated people. More and more joined the platform, walling him in to his call. Abe had always made it his duty to be a polite a man as humanly possible. And so, pushing up his large circular glasses with one finger, he lowered his voice as he tried to continue in low whisper as to not disturb his soon-to-be fellow passengers. 

    “Wait, wait, can I just…”

    He closed his eyes as he was silenced again. His hand that held the phone started to tremble, the other tapped nervously on his knee. Don't interrupt, let others have their say, came Abe's own rules flooding out of his mind. 

    A middle-aged woman, Abe reckoned to be, in baggy light-coloured clothes and silvery wild hair came and abruptly sat next to him with a large sigh as she slumped.

    “Oh for fuck’s sake,” she said under her breath as she too watched the board display an increase in the train’s delay. It seemed this woman had no sense of boundary. Abe was a large man, he was the first to admit, and he was always conscious of other people’s space. Give people room, no one likes to feel cooped-up, came another self-imposed rule. This lady did not share the same ideology as she riffled through a big bag between her legs on the floor, knocking Abe’s leg repeatedly as she did so. Abe raised an eyebrow in surprise for a moment as his attention split from the speaker on the phone and he watched the woman try to bury into the earth it seemed through her bag with much huffing and curse words.

    Abe was not a confrontational man (the life-long rule here was be nice, always) and right now was finding it hard to hear the speaker over the din of people swearing and complaining around him. That, and the children finding noisy ways to entertain themselves that seemed to bounce off the brickwork of the station.

    Taking a deep breath, Abe stood and picked up his leather bag after dusting off his long oatmeal coloured coat. He smiled as he began to make his way through the crowd of people with great difficulty, apologising and thanking people as he went bumping by. He was aiming towards the far end of the platform where it looked a lot quieter and he could finish up his call. He found himself apologising profusely to the caller, trying to explain his situation but was stopped short every time he tried.

    After what felt like a lifetime of tsk’s and eye rolls later, Abe made it to the far end of the platform. It was uncovered here, and the Sun warmed his face. For a split second he found he could both breathe and hear again.

    Too little, too late.

    “Oh, I mean, I can talk now?” Abe said with an upturned mouth and raising his eyebrows once more. Only the birds in the branches overhead, behind the long spiked metal fence heard him finish his call with “OK, well, talk to you later then, goodbye.”


    Here was Abe; a tall and large African-American male in an expensive suit, an accomplished businessman - a titan of industry some said - stood on a British train station platform far from home and feeling quite like a child. Speechless. 

    He put his new phone back in his coat pocket. He knew it wouldn’t be ringing anytime soon, and he never really got the point of that social-media-scrolling-majig that his co-workers were so keen on. A younger persons pastime, perhaps. He took a deep breath as the birds behind him twittered and gossiped, and found another uncomfortable metal bench, surprisingly vacant. The crowd had stayed nearer to the only working electric board near the other end for updates. 

    “The next train to arrive at platform two…” came the voice from afar.

    Abe didn’t much feel like joining them for the minute. A train now, later, what difference did it make?

    An unusual thing then happened to Abe; he walked over to the bench, his shiny brogues tapping away on the concrete as he walked, then he placed his leather bag down with a soft thump. He sat down, and simply stared at the tracks below for a moment, assessing. 

    There was something within him; a restlessness, a groaning. A sea of some kind, that he both knew and didn’t know at the same time. A wild, stirring sea underneath a dark rain-clouded sky. Abe felt it undulate agitatedly somewhere in his chest, behind many forgotten curtains, underneath layers of self-imposed rules. The sea swelled as he took a deep breath in, and it began rush, waking as it did so. Cresting waves began to emerge and fall.

    Abe came back to the station and looked around as he pursed his lips, cleared his throat, and shifted in his seat. It was times like this that Abe would turn to the voice of his father in his mind. His father, Herb, was a spritely man brimming with principle, organisation and good character. Abe had fond memories of his father helping him out with his homework when he was a boy, explaining complicated math equations or helping him write the importance of photosynthesis at the kitchen table. He remembered every cheer he made at all the softball games Abe had played. An unyielding supportive father. It was because of Herb’s charismatic and energetic way of explaining difficult things that Abe had inadvertently cast his father as a Personal Assistant of sorts in his mind, reading aloud Abe’s list of to-dos. He found that this way it friend-lied up the ever-growing list and reminded him of home. Ah, Seattle. Abe never told his father this however; he thought it was silly, though he knew deep down his father would laugh with that gap-toothed merry laugh of his. 

    “So,” said Herb in Abe’s mind, “first you gotta get on that-there train, whenever it comes in, then get that calendar out ‘cause you’re gonna need it, son; the day's just beginn-”

    Herb, much like Abe on his call, was suddenly cut short. 

    The sea continued to swell and stir, consciously irritated. Abe couldn’t help but feel it; be slowly consumed by it.

    There was also a cliff. Nondescript, but tall, perhaps without a peak. Just a long, sheer rocky wall. 

    The sea did not like this wall. Abe was certain. The sea was an animal, wild and free. It could not, would not, be contained.

    The sea drew breath and contracted. The cliff stood. Abe became lost within himself as the voice over the tannoy said “train passing through, please stand away from the edge of the platform.”

    A large mountainous wave swelled and grew, curling bigger and bigger. As it crested, the train at the same time burst through the station splitting the air. CRASH went the sea as white foam exploded upon the rocky cliff face.

    Abe’s face for a moment screwed up tightly. A pain, non-physical but present, washed over him for a moment.

    “No, no, come on now,” said Herb in Abe’s mind as he got a hold of himself. What a unusual moment that was. “Now, as I was saying, you’s gonna board that train, not this one that’s moving and gone now though, you hear? Ha ha!”

    Abe chuckled to himself. His father would say something like that in real-life he was sure.


    The sea had come roaring back in full force. Abe scrunched up his face once more. He put his hand to his head as he did so. He could feel the sea within him rising, readying itself like a tiger ready to pounce. Abe’s lip wobbled.

    An unfathomably large wave rose from the sea and threw itself with all its force against the crumbling cliff. CRASH! White spray flew in every direction, and only then, wordlessly, did Abe heard the sea speak.

    “You are not me,” it cried sounding like a gale to the cliff, “I reject you! Get out of my way! Go away!” The sea, once more, swelled and drew height as it screamed “I! AM! ALL!” 

    A thunderous CRASH! In the aftermath only phantom seagulls, and real birds in trees, quietly made their noises in the background.

    Abe took off his glasses, put his face in his hand and began to cry, much to his surprise. Even now was he conscious not to be a nuisance, so he cried as quietly as he could, sobbing and wiping his tears delicately and discreetly. Abe couldn’t help but feel that if his father resided in his head, then his right now his mother was in his hands.

    Some time passed, Abe couldn’t tell how much. Time was elusive at Leicester Station. Even the trains new it. Tears continued to roll down his face for some time, finding their way onto his wrists and his jacket collar. For a split second, Abe was the only man at Leicester Station. The crowd, the birds and even the passing trains had become mute. That was until something broke the silence. 

    “Hey mate,” came a voice suddenly.     

    Abe quickly straightened up and wiped his red puffy eyes frantically, correcting his glasses and putting on his best smile as he chuckled. In his attempt to seem normal, subconsciously there was a line that occurred to him from a 90’s movie he used to watch when he was a boy, The Rocketeer, where an aerial display with planes in the 1940’s goes awry, and as the hero - a man with a rocket on his back - flies up to a malfunctioning plane to save the day, a commentator says over the microphone tries to reassure the audience amongst the chaos that“it’s all part o’ the show!”.

    “Ah,” Abe said, flustered, “I do apologise, you’ve caught me at quite an unusual moment, ha! Erm, how - how can I help you?”

    A young man, perhaps in his mid-twenties Abe reckoned, with short dark hair, dark jacket, jeans and all-star converse sat down on the uncomfortable bench. He had pale blue eyes that had little more colour than an opalite. And he wasn’t fooled for a moment. Abe, given his situation, was prepared for a British “are you OK, mate?”, but that’s not what he got. Instead, Abe became undone with three simple words that caught him completely off-guard; “I see you,” said the man as he looked earnestly at into Abe’s own eyes, the colour of chestnut. Suddenly, where once was a sea, rivers and a heavy downfall of rain appeared within him, and came flooding to the surface. Abe dropped his composure and crumbled like a piece of paper on the bench, burying his face in his hands as he wept.

    The young man said nothing for a moment until he offered a tissue. 

    “It’s alright,” he said soothingly. 

    Abe took the tissue, scrunching his face up once more as he chocked a ‘thank you’ out. He couldn’t say anything more beyond that for the moment. The trees overhead rustled in a gentle breeze that came rolling by, sweeping the leaves as it passed like fingers over chimes. The two men sat in shared silence for a moment.

    “I could sure use a coffee,” said the man shortly after, “and I bet you could too. There’s a café over there,” he indicated with a nod of his head to the Pumpkin Café on the platform opposite. He then went on to say that the next train isn’t for a little while still, and that the coffee was on him.

    The train was delayed further? It’s all part o’ the show!

    Ordinarily, Abe would’ve thanked the man for his kind gesture and would have politely declined. But today wasn’t an ordinary day. A sea had begun to course through his veins, shining a light and healing that which Abe hadn’t realised was broken, running over hot cracks in his being with a soothing hiss…

    “Sure,” said Abe trying too get a hold of himself, “that…that would be real nice.” 

    The man smiled kindly as Abe coughed and composed himself, returning the smile.


    As the two men rose to their feet and began to walk, Abe felt that untameable sea settle and just simply rock to and fro, playfully. The rain-clouds had dispersed. The cliff, though not gone, was instead collapsing away piece-by-piece. Perhaps it might fall one day, perhaps it might learn to live with the sea, who knows. All Abe knew in this moment was that coffee, to not be alone for a moment and to catch a break, was very, very welcome indeed. No matter when his train would come, for now it could wait.

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