I left the Ministry of Sound at around 3 AM completely sober. I walked past a collection of drunk people loitering at the entrance. As per usual, they were doing drunk people things. Usually, the presence of garishness bothered me because I found loud conversation to be an uncalled assertion of existence. But, at the moment, I found any noise other than the cutting bass indoors to be quite refreshing, which included the turbulence outside.
I had lost my hearing protection at another concert about a week prior. It was the second pair of high fidelity earplugs that I had lost over the past year, a feat that made me question the strength of my responsibility. My ears were accompanied the buzzing sound of tinnitus because the D.I.Y. earplugs I had created from the toilet paper in the bathroom had been inadequate, although it had been a significant improvement from nothing. How the majority of these people could spend prolonged periods of time in a space that caused my skull to rattle with ever bass note was beyond me.
I expected to take the Bakerloo line back to Regent’s Park station, as that was the way I had originally come, but only until I reached Elephant and Castle station did I realize the error in my assumption. I expected that the tube would be open on Saturday evening. But, even though I had seen warnings for its closure in the past, I did not take into account that the Bakerloo line is under construction during the hours of night tube operations for the next couple of months. Such was the sad sight of me peering into the metal gates of Elephant and Castle station.
I walked aimlessly for a while, unsure of how I could resolve my predicament. After all, I did not have internet if I did not have a WIFI connection, and at that moment, I could not expect salvation from WIFI. I did, however, have the map of London rendered onto my Google Maps app. Despite my inability to recognize a simple path home, I roamed the streets of South London (with the heavy assistance of Location Services), and eventually made myself to Waterloo station, which had not been closed.
A couple of weeks prior, I had met a poet at a Sofar Sounds concerts who recommended that I take the Northern line at night if I ever needed inspiration to write. Seeing as I do not arrive home past midnight, I saw my current predicament as a great opportunity to do so.
The car I boarded had around a dozen people. A man sat next to me and asked me where I was from, which I replied, “The States,” which he replied, “Where in the States?” which I replied “Philadelphia.” The question did not bother me as it once did, as I have come to realize that the majority of my supposed “correct” opinions on race and gender are merely a means for me to assert my education at a prestigious university surrounded by other privileged students who affirm subjective opinions to universal truths. After all, a baseline understanding of race and gender does not allow me to condescend others for not having the opportunity to explore the same topics that I have had a privilege to learn.
He then asked if I watched Pokémon, which I replied, “When I was a kid,” to which he replied, “Then what Pokémon is this,” pulling out a yellow rat-like figurine from his pocket. He says, “It looks like Pikachu right?” I did not think the plastic toy had the appearance of Pikachu, but I could not articulate the Pokémon it resembled. Then, his friend chimed in, “I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s that sand Pokémon with the claws.” I reflected and agreed. It did look like “that sand Pokémon with the claws.” Then, the name bubbled into my consciousness along with all the other childhood memories I have with Pokémon. “It’s Sandshrew!”
A couple of minutes later, a woman sat in front of me and started to read a book. It was a thick book. Upon seeing the picture of Marcel Proust on the back, I immediately identified it as In Search of Lost Time, at least one of the seven volumes. I was tempted to introduce myself, as Proust is a writer that echoes many of my opinions regarding love, but seeing as it was approaching 4 AM. in the middle of a presumed ride home, I decided not to. Of course, I would probably do the same thing during the day; inducing a conversation with a stranger in the tube is just weird.
The woman seemed to be fully sober (as she was reading), and I wondered where she could have possibly come from. Reading in the tube is a matter of habit, as it requires an instinctual understanding of where to get on and get off. From my experiences of getting accustomed to the London underground, it is very difficult to focus my attention when I was preoccupied with not missing the stop indicated on my phone. And, for her, I wonder what about getting home approaching 4 AM is a matter of habit. Perhaps she worked at a bar or a club? Her outfit was quite modest, which would strike that idea. Alas, I wonder!
As I approached the end of my journey, a drunk man stumbled in and landed on a seat. He was clearly intoxicated beyond comprehension. The drunk man eyed two men next to him began bantering with them, who seemed tipsy but no drunk. I could not hear their conversation, but from the gestures, all three men seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Or, at least, as close as individuals are under the influence. At one point, the drunk man pulled a pre-rolled cigarette out of his pocket and lit it in the middle of the subway car. The two other men exclaimed loudly and gestured wildly, to the uncaring ears of the drunk man.
After a few laughs exchanged, they returned to a state of silence. The drunk man finished a quarter of his cigarette, left the car, and sat down on the benches lining the wall. The smell of the smoke remained in the car for another couple of minutes, although the people who entered the car when he left did not seem to notice. The two men who shared the conversation with the drunk man left one stop after he did. One stop later, I got off at Warren Street station, which had been conveniently located next to a 24 hr. McDonald’s that sold £1 chicken mayonnaise sandwiches. Thus, I concluded my journey on the night tube.
I came back to my apartment long after the house had gone asleep and observed the silence for a bit. The birds were not chirping; it was not one of those nights. Then, I set an alarm for 10:30 AM and went to sleep.