Books are grand and here’s just more proof of that fact. I borrowed a book to put in my cycling bag and read on the train to work from York this morning. Inside the book was a bookmark in two parts. It was a pair of train tickets, out and back from York. These were the most important train tickets in my life and I’d never seen them before.
I was going to talk about the book for a while – Susan Sontag on Photography – but aside from pointing out that in this true story, an image became a very real form and remains so, going on about the book would really be pretentious. So, I’ll talk about the bookmarks, the important bits.
It turns out, you see, that the bookmarks were the return and outward pair of tickets that my now partner had bought at York station at 13:35hrs on November 27th 2010. That would be a snowy Saturday. That would be the first day we met in person.
Looking at the tickets, which had fallen out of the book as I was reading it standing on the 07:45 train this morning, it struck me that without them there would have been none of our recent heart-rending, wall-blistering arguments that left us in separate parts of the the house we’d just moved into.
We’ve just moved into a new house and, during decoration and furnishing negotiations, we’ve realised that unlike proper lovers from film, TV, adverts and books, we don’t in fact share exactly the same taste in all things all the time. It dawned on us this week that we are different, separate people. We are a couple but we are alone in our own skins.
That is a blessed thing. It’s a sane life. We are happy to be individuals. That’s the love that comes with experience. We are alone in our own skins but…
…we are not as alone – I thought as I stopped reading Sontag and held the tickets closer on the grinding, standing journey into work with the abrasive bloke next to me digging his case into my leg, and the small, sad, fat man across from me blowing the smell of his breakfast roll into my face – we are not as alone as we were at around 14:45hrs on Saturday November 27th 2010.
That was a few minutes before we met for the first time, having been images to each other on Internet pages for a month or so previously. I had taken a bus to Leeds, I no longer have the ticket I bought that day.
My partner, my now fiancée, bought her return tickets, popped them into her book, prepared her friend Margaret to be her get-out call before meeting me for the first time in person. Those tickets remained in the book. The return half, like the get-out call, was never used. We went elsewhere that day, there was no need to use it.
I got off my commuting train this morning changed by the contents of a book. The contents of the object. The memento of the day that life changed for me changed me again this morning. I called her and told her about finding the tickets that brought us into contact.
“Romantical,” she said.
“Yes!” I replied.
“So, we’ve got some swatches for the new sofa coming,” she said.
“The one I’m not sure I like?”
“It’s lovely, one of the swatches is ultimate red, you’ll love it,” she enthused in that way that she does that changed things for the better.
“I probably won’t,” I drawled.
“Let’s just see when you get home tonight,” she said, busy now, trying to get off the phone so she could work.
“OK, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I put the tickets back into the book. The book back into my bag and walked to work happy in the knowledge that swatches and sofas and fire-breathing discussions and all the other experiences she and I share make all the time after 13:35hrs on November 27th 2010 worthwhile.