Removing the Bouquet
The Station Team staff room is just behind Lost Property. There’s a doorway, without a door, connecting the two. If someone rings the bell at Lost Property reception when you’re on a tea break you have to make a judgement call it seems.
I’ve noticed Linda usually goes through to help, Mac usually doesn’t (they should take more bloody care of their shit in the first place), and Sanya is about 50/50 – it depends if she’s in the middle of posting something on social media. I’m still figuring out my approach.
Mac came through from Lost Property yesterday in a surprisingly jolly mood. He was doing a sort of dance with a prosthetic leg. He held it next to his legs and started singing a jaunty sort of song, lifting two of his three legs up in the air at a time.
Linda wasn’t there to tell him off and Sanya kept her eyes firmly on her phone. Someone had to give him some sort of reaction, and I found myself saying whoever lost the leg would be hopping mad when they realised.
Mac jabbed me in the stomach with the foot.
‘Good’un,’ he said.
I looked at the rota. I was down to do the platform bins and toilet checks from 14.00 – 15.00. Mac was Duty Manager for the shift, which just seems to mean he doesn’t have to do any actual work. I took a pair of plastic gloves from the cupboard.
‘There’s a bunch of flowers wants taking down at the arse end of platform 3,’ he said. ‘Left over from when some glum bugger decided to re-paint a train with his guts.’
I nodded and hurried out to get the rubbish cart.
On platform 3, I unclipped the bulging bin bag from the metal ring and held my breath as I opened the rubbish cart and stuffed it in.
Then I wheeled the cart down to the ‘arse end’ of the platform. The bouquet did need to be removed. The flowers were brittle and brown and the inside of the pink plastic wrapping was covered in a sludgy residue. There was a card attached, but weeks of rain had turned the words to small blue bruises. In the days after it happened, a whole mountain of cards, photographs, flowers and other odds and ends had built up. We left everything there for a decent period before bagging it up for the big bins. A couple of months had passed, but every so often a solitary, belated token of grief like this one would appear.
I took a breath and thought of the small avalanche of colour and wishes piled up along the wall of that grimy motorway footbridge almost seven years ago. Our housemate, Tom, had been struggling and I had known it. If I had followed him out that day I could have stopped him. But the others had said he was being a dick, just wanted attention, to leave him to it. Always the last to figure out my approach.
A train thundered past. Behind the grey-green rushing wall of it I cut down the bouquet, threw it in the cart, and promised to do better next time.
When I got back to the office Mac was on the phone. He seemed to be wrangling over something and finally hung up, looking defeated.
‘She’s a stupid bitch,’ he said, flopping heavily into a chair.
‘I got rid of the glum bugger’s floral tribute,’ I said. Just for something supportive to say really.
‘Fancy a beer at The Tap after this?’ he said.
‘Sure,’ I said.
I wasn’t sure. I had my French class later and wondered if I’d have the nerve to order a half.
Shelley Roche-Jacques’ work has appeared in magazines such as Flash, Litro, The Rialto and The Boston Review. Her collection of dramatic monologues Risk the Pier was published in 2017. She teaches Creative Writing and Performance at Sheffield Hallam University.