It’s a cold Friday in early January, and I am sat quivering on a steel bench in Preston Station. It’s the first time I’ve been here longer than stopping for fellow travellers to get on and off. The gorgeous taste of the pastry that I just bought is slowly walking away from me (if you know me at all, you will understand how upsetting this is).
In the midst of all this, I can also see a few guys walking past me with see-through bags. You could see their clothes and personal items inside the bags. By the way some were holding onto their bags, and their facial expressions, you could feel that they’re at a crossroads. I’ve seen similar expressions before, with personal friends. Some were overwhelmingly grateful to be free, others were slowly coming to terms with being out. You would think it should be a happy occasion for all, but some, in reality, fair better inside. Now that’s truly upsetting.
Why am I shivering in Preston Station? I was en route to Blackburn for work.
As I wait for the shortest train that I have ever seen to be ready, a guy come towards me and ask to sit next to me - as you do. My reply; “of course you can.” He began asking me questions, and I initially did what most Londoners do replying to each closed question with “uh”& “ahh okay”. I also mixed in an obvious “I’m about to listen to some music” moves.
At some point, I remembered that he just came out of prison. I also understood that sometimes, we just want to speak to someone. I turned around and became honestly invested in the conversation. I ended up having a full blown discussion with him for the next 40 minutes. Midway through, he pulls out two Stella Artois’ and comments “I need this, I’m about to see my ex again. I’m going to my family now, and she’s gonna be there.” I chuckled, because I understood the feeling all too well.
We talked the prison system, politics, him being lost in London for 6-weeks and of course, religion. It was definitely one of the more intriguing conversations I’ve had with a stranger. Below is something that he said that stood out for me. His ownership of feeling lost and at a crossroads is interesting. I resonated with his understanding of his agency, that he chooses what happens next.