I often think my legal career is better depicted not in the things I’ve learned or the late nights worked in the office or dashing to court at the last minute, a documents suitcase rattling on the cobbles behind me, but actually in sitting on the steps of Snow Hill station, watching the arrivals and departures beneath me passing in and out, their metal wheels squeaking on the tracks, waiting for my twice-hourly train and worrying about things just said to me in the pub.
That is where I am now, and where I have spent many, many hours of my legal career, and where I wished to be this summer when I was instead reading books on my sun-lounger in the garden. How privileged I would be when my worries were about qualification and job security and doing the right things, I thought then; how normal.
A green Arriva train pulls in and a girl wearing flared jeans that are too short for her gets off. I wonder where’s she’s going at ten o’clock on a Friday night. She meets my eyes as she climbs the stairs and I look away, embarrassed to be 29 and sitting on the stairs – they’re up high and warmer than the benches, but it doesn’t stop you getting a muddy behind.
My train arrives eventually and I get on it and stare out of the windows. MindReader is waiting for me in our warm car at the other end and I feel myself unfurling like a spring flower.
“You alright?” he says mildly.
“Mm,” I say.
“I haven’t cooked. Let’s get takeaway,” he says.
We drive ten minutes up the road and park outside a strip of shops and restaurants, lit up blue and red and white in the night. It’s neither warm nor cool outside and smells of spring sap and blossom.
We order Chinese takeaway and wait, like I used to do when I was growing up. We sit on the wooden windowsill and look out. The windows are steamed up and it’s warm in here and I could almost go to sleep amidst the smell of the ginger and chilis.
“What you thinking?” MindReader says.
I draw my knees up to my chest and a tear rolls down my cheek. There is nothing wrong, really, except change and uncertainty and finding my own way and feeling like everybody is watching me do it, both in the literary and the law worlds. There are interviews and decisions and what kind of firm do I want to work for? and what am I happy to earn? and shit, is this really happening? Questions I haven’t – due to lack of foresight – ever really considered. I have written a book and sent it to an agent and I have almost completed my training contract and now need a job and I feel completely and utterly alone in my professional lives.
MindReader dashes the tear away from my cheek. I start talking, steaming the windows up even further. Our food is placed on the counter by the chef, wordlessly, and we leave it there for a while.