This post has nothing to do with yoga. But it has a little to do with love and gratitude.
On Tuesday we remembered those who lost their lives on 7/7. There are many moving tributes on social media and in the news. There was one, a tweet by someone called Andrew Dysch, that made me stop. It stirred something inside me and prompted me to write this. It is not an important story. I was not hurt. My loved ones were not hurt. No, it is not an important story compared to the many moving stories from that day. But it is mine.
The tweet by Andrew showed a picture of some black shoes and the caption said “Still have the shoes I was wearing to talk 5 miles on 7/7. The blisters have gone, not the memories.” I can’t remember the shoes I was wearing but I remember the top, a green crocheted wraparound, and the necklace, a big chunky green jade set in brass. I remember this because moments before we were shouted at to get off the bus and move south as quickly as possible, I had looked down at my phone wanting to dial my office again. I was tapping with my left hand on the pendant wondering, with a deep sense of dread washing over me, what the hell was going on.
I had arrived at Tooting Broadway station as usual that morning to find it closed and hundreds of people waiting at the gates to be let in. I was a little late so I decided to get the bus to Stockwell. I got a text message from my friend Heilene (who, this story is really about) saying that she couldn’t get into her station and was thinking about going home. She wasn’t enjoying work much at the time and had been in the habit of using any small reason to not go in. I told her not to go home but to find a way in. I told her to tell them you’ll be late because of the tubes and get a bus to another tube station. I was a little tough on her. I didn’t want her to lose her job. I was more than a little tough on her. Find a way into work.
Stockwell station looked just like Tooting Broadway so I carried on to Vauxhall where we were told the Victoria line was down because of a power failure. I called work and was told that a few people were having problems, not to stress. What seemed like ages later I was on a bus near Russell Square. It stopped. And didn’t move. Slowly we all became more and more confused. Huffing and puffing. Swearing. Some left. I looked down at my phone, tapping my pendant, to call the office but I had no signal. And suddenly someone, the bus driver I assume, was shouting “Get off. Get off. Quickly. Get off and walk that way. Go. Go.”
My phone still had no signal and I still had no idea what was going on. I found a payphone. There were a few people waiting to use it. Nobody had signal. When I called the office the voice on the other end, Alyn, sounded very different. “Claire, don’t panic, but start walking home. Don’t get on public transport. Just walk home” but he would say no more.
I started walking. I stopped to buy an A-Z. At some point, after walking for about two hours, I stopped outside a Dixons where several others were crowded around the TV screens in the window. That’s when we all realised a little bit of what was going on.
Heilene. Heilene. Shit. I had insisted she find a way in to work. Where was she? Was she okay? And if not, it was my fault. My phone still had no signal. I remember that moment so clearly. My body went ice cold and I almost choked on the heartbeat in my suddenly very dry throat. My arms and hands had pins and needles. Salt stung my eyes.
I walked almost 7 miles that day. Some of it in the rain.
I hadn’t realised that I had been crying or been as full of terror and fear as I was until I felt the relief. About five hours after getting off the bus, I turned into my road. I had almost passed it and continued on to Heilene’s but decided to check mine first. And there she was on my doorstep. I can’t remember ever feeling more relieved than I did in that moment. I don’t believe we spoke much that day. I think we just sat in silence. In my garden. In gratitude. Ten years on, I want to tell you Leeney, that I’m grateful you didn’t listen to me on that day. Life would be less without your joyous, infectious lust for life.