Chapter 1 – Extract 2 from The Paradise Induction!
“Ready to go? Everything packed up?” his mother said. Chris nodded.
“Okay then, let’s do it,” she continued, grabbing his hand-luggage and making her way out the door. He examined himself one final time in the hallway mirror.
This is the last time I’ll see myself in this mirror for ages, he thought, fixing the collar on his favourite blue shirt; a positive shirt that held good memories for him and seemed fitting for this life-changing occasion. He took a deep sigh.
He checked his wallet to see his last £200 from Job Seekers Allowance payments converted into American dollars, then put it away. He brushed a spec of dust off the shoulder of his black suit and nodded at his reflection.
“Come on,” his mother said, pulling him from the abyss of hesitation. He grabbed his two suitcases—one in hand and one pulling behind him as they left their small flat in Pimlico, Central London.
On the concrete landing, they walked down the switch-back stairs. He balanced the luggage with the steps as the plastic wheels echoed hard into the apartment block with each drop.
Leaving for University wasn’t the same as this.
Southampton had just been a train journey away from London. This felt permanent, like there was a possibility that he’d never be coming back. Perhaps it was because that possibility was a potential reality. He’d hated London his whole conscious life and knew he should be happy with this escape plan – he was finally getting out of this horrible, rude, and emotionally cold City where no one cared for you. Where people never had the common courtesy to say “please” and “thank you.” Where mornings going to work were like being part of a mischief of desperate rats, scurrying toward food, no thought of the rat next to them.
Reaching the bottom floor and exiting the block of flats into the avenue, where two rows of apartments were situated on either side, he wheeled his luggage.
Was this really happening? Leaving home like this? Running so far to the other side of the world?
He had promised himself he would do it, but to actually be walking the walk – it felt like a death march. Like the vow he had made was not about freedom, but a debtor coming to collect what was promised ten years back.
They reached his mother’s car outside of the avenue on the main street. The scratch across silver BMW’s driver door was a reminder of the malicious nature of London – that people will act on unpleasant intentions, sometimes for something. Sometimes for nothing.
As he loaded up his luggage, the coldness inside his mind did not allow his negative feelings about London to come to the surface. Instead, every definitive move toward his relocation hollowed him out.
He had chosen this. This was his choice. So why did it appear more like he was being forced out of London, than the escape plan he’d wanted?
The car journey was slow, almost static, as if time had come to a standstill. Spring’s cloudy, dark sky and dawn’s absence of life on the streets, complemented the eerie atmosphere.
Think of things that anger you about London, he told himself. Think of the decision you made so long ago. Remember?
But the thoughts weren’t working. The only perception that emerged was that he was being pushed out of his country. Exiled. Ostracised. Abdication – the last resort of a desperate man.
“You’re going to really enjoy it you know,” his mother said as if reading his mind.
“Alright,” he mumbled.
They reached Victoria Station, unloaded his luggage, and caught the N38 Bus, heading to Green Park Tube Station.
Sitting at the back of the bus, the vehicle was as dead and empty as the rest of London.
“How were your friends about the whole thing?” his mother continued.
“Mum, I really don’t want to talk right now,” he managed to murmur. “I’m just feeling really, really nervous.”
The bus journey was short.
They were at the tube station, then on the vacant tube in what felt like seconds. His stomach had taken up Champion-level gymnastics.
He used the tube journey to rest his head against the seat, calming his heart beat, before drifting to sleep.