A #CreativeCommute short story.
Journey: Blackhorse Road to Shepherds Bush (London). Travel time: 40 minutes
'You're definitely coming right?' David shouts at me across the courtyard. I give him a thumbs up, then I pull my hat down to hide my face. The man has the subtlety of a brick.
Ben leans in to me 'Come on Sarah lets all do something illegal!' he pretends to shout in my ear, speaking no louder than a whisper. I grin.
'I'm going that way.' he says drifting to the left.
'You sure you can't come tonight?' I ask him. 'Once in a lifetime chance. That's what David said- loudly.'
'I can't. I'm already late with this stupid thing. If I flunk out I'll have to flee to the woods and live off the land to escape the wrath of my mother.'
'Can I come?'
He pulls me into a kiss.
'See you tomorrow?' he asks breaking away.
'Enjoy breaking the law!' he mock shouts into my ear.
'Away with you Lucas.' I say giving him a push. 'You're going to make me late.'
In my lecture I stare at the ceiling whilst the man on the screen demonstrates how to calculate the foundations for a bridge. This is very important if I ever want to make a bridge that doesn't collapse and kill people, but I can't concentrate. My stomach is full of butterflies. Tonight we're watching a film. Not just any film. Abigail was passed it by a friend who got it off the black market. We had to get something to play it on - a 'DVD player' which you actually plug into a monitor (what a faff). James then had to fix it, its old electronics had come lose whilst it was being passed from person to person, in the dead of night. A lot of effort for a film only five of us would watch. We couldn’t invite anyone we didn’t trust implicitly. Ben was invited of course. We knew we could trust anyone who'd been to one of the meetings.
The man on the screen is commentating footage of a bridge collapsing. He is one of the blandest people I’ve ever seen. There is nothing defining about his face, not even a hint of character. Maybe he’s computer generated. Apparently there used to be more Lecturers - there were academics everywhere before the Party came to power. But centralised, broadcasted education is cheaper and fairer. All the third year Architects in the country will be sitting in the same lecture as me right now. And academics are dangerous, people who sit and think all day are not generally approved of by a totalitarian state.
Case in point - Professor Poppy. He’d managed to hold onto a coveted academic post as the head of the university’s History Department. Although if the Party found out what he was really like he’d be gone in seconds. In one of the meetings he told us that he'd chosen to change his name from Levinson when they'd forced him to convert, and he'd chosen Poppy. He'd told the Party that as a History Professor he found the poppy to be one of the most compelling of the British symbols. He'd told us that the poppy was a symbol of people who had fought and died to keep Britain free. Personally I think he liked the alliteration. This was just one of the many dangerous things he would say behind closed doors. We'd sit in his office, inhaling the scent of books that had suffered decades of Prof Poppy's pipe, and we'd listen.
Tonight we would have a glimpse into the past - into Professor Poppy's past. Before state censorship when films like 'The Life of Brian' were still made and watched. I wonder what it will be like. I've never watched anything on 'the list' before. I can't begin to imagine how it will feel.
I hiccup. The students sitting near me glance over amused. My butterflies have graduated to nervous hiccups, fantastic. I sit for the rest of the lecture trying to concentrate and hiccuping quietly. Tonight's the night. Tomorrow everything will look different.