21 July 2003
As the train takes me across the island, I wonder about the history behind this remarkable stretch of railroad. Tunnelling through mountains, bridging valleys a kilometre wide, facing the twin dangers of Corsican bandits and wild boar - why would they spend so much money and energy creating a line that would only see two trains of tourists a day while all the locals
Suddenly, I feel more empathy with Patrick Bateman than I ever thought inhumanly possible. When some objectionable Frenchman with an ugly wife faggots his way into the seat next to me in his tiny, ridiculous green shorts that only a European would ever consider wearing. When he ushers his dog into the space in front of my seat, meaning that I have to sit with my legs tucked under seat, the tips of my sandals supporting the whole weight of my legs, while he stretches out his puny limbs in self-contented freedom. When I realise that this disrupts not only my comfort and my creative flow, but also my view of my muse, a blonde asleep in the place behind me, looking for all the world like a slimmer version of Heidi from the Sugababes in her tiny black top and skirt, certainly too young for me but still legal (beyond reasonable doubt). This is when I start to imagine ways of inflicting such sharp and sudden pain on the pointless creature before me that it leaps up and sinks its teeth into its owner's over-exposed crotch. Wondering if I could reach up for one of the straps that hang tantalisingly from the overhead rack without anyone noticing, and bring an oversized rucksack - or better still, that satisfyingly diamond-edged suitcase - crashing down on his silver-grey crown. Or whether I should forego all subtlety and throttle him, right here and now, with the black leather strap that hangs from the arms of his fake Ray-Bans.
What really irks me is his attempt, half an hour later, to strike up a conversation. "What are you writing?" I think, given the circumstances, honesty is not the best policy.
"Oh, a sort of journal," I reply, with the blank, mildly homosexual mask I put on as a matter of course under such circumstances. Think Paul McGann in Withnail & I when faced with Uncle Monty, only with the soul of Jack the Ripper.
He gives me an inquisitive look, as if to enquire whether something is the matter.
Of course something's the fucking matter. Your fucking dog's taken up all my fucking legroom, that's what's the fucking matter.
"I don't like dogs," I state flatly.
"Oh, don't worry about him. He won't bite."
"I didn't say I was worried. I didn't say he would bite. I'm not afraid of dogs, I just don't like them. I don't see the point."
I think this outburst surprises him, and he looks at me like I just denied the Holocaust, or admitted a predilection for kiddie porn. One of the things I hate about so many animal lovers - they refuse to accept that sane, rational people could disagree with them, so they try to talk you round like evangelical Christians. Luckily, I've anticipated and manage a pre-emptive strike while he's still taking in the last statement.
"Dogs aren't loyal, or loving. You feed them, you play with them, you buy them little toys: of course they're going to do what you tell them, be happy to see you. You're going to bring up the old 'but children/humans/people aren't like that', aren't you? Well, it's quite simple: dogs just don't have the intellect to question your authority, and moreover they're utterly dependent. The reason a dog's sorry to see you leave in the morning, and happy to see you when you come back is, he hasn't worked out that you have a routine and do this every single day. That so-happy-to-see-you act is pure relief: unless he works out what cupboard the food's in, and learns to operate a can-opener, he genuinely thinks he's going to starve. Christ, you even have to tell them when they can take a shit, for their entire lives."
I think I've made my point. He gets off, hurriedly, dog and wife and all, at the next stop. I hope this wasn't just because of me. Next train's not due for another four and a half hours.
* * *
Just as I'm about to hit my stride again, I'm disturbed by some flying creature with a sting half an inch long. With what has become my customary cool I lure it into what remains of my soft drink and screw the top back on deftly, ensuring to keep it upright for the remainder of my journey. It'll be ideal for the noisy inhabitants of the bar below my window. I can see it now, the bottle arcing over the balcony railing, smashing against the burnished skull of the loudmouth below mid-song, leaving him to contend with the dual pain of glass embedded in his cranium and the frenzied attacks of its escaped prisoner, attracted by the glucose drink now mingling with his blood. After some initial disturbance I should get a decent night's sleep.
I wonder whether I should be doing something to channel these instincts more constructively. Perhaps a career as a mercenary or an assassin would provide me with some sort of outlet for this internal aggression. But then again, when Michelangelo was under contract to paint the Sistine Chapel, did he lose the urge to sketch a pretty girl who caught his eye in the street? Did Shakespeare not write the odd sonnet while he was trying to finish off King Lear? Unfortunately for me, circumstances conspire to inspire my art. It's beyond my control.
It's funny. I said getting away might stimulate my creativity.