Storytelling Through My Sketchbook: A Cold Wintery Night

I was going to meet a friend for dinner. There’s something about dinners: recuperating after a long day’s work, swirling into a trance as the lingering flavours relaxed my cumbered mind, flying on virgin Pina Coladas, swooping the warm soup through my oesophagus in the cold wintery night. In essence, dinners were my favourite meal of the day. Anyway, I was going to eat by the river, at the Thai place in Greenwich. Sometimes, the contemporary side of London made me happy, too; the river running by the tall, glass buildings; no sight of any ancient British architecture. Sometimes, I preferred it to central London.

I slipped into a knitted, woollen dress hemmed with striped borders on the V-neckline and the pockets of the dress, and wore my winter coat above it. I comforted my cold feet with black suede boots. I called for a black cab to Greenwich. Drives made me think; I’d think about the future, and how lucky I was. People always chase a feeling, and I’d feel when everything was quiet, when I didn’t feel guilty about not doing anything.

We ordered skewers and plenty of appetisers. Many rounds of Pina Coladas left no room for the main course. The cheque arrived and I drew out my card to pay. Then, the magical moment came to pass: my card was declined ( I owned two cards, an Indian and a British debit card). Soon, I realised that my British debit card was missing and my Indian card suffered from doddering signals. My bank accounts had more than enough for me to be generous and so, I presumed it was an accident. I thought the signals were weak. Anyway, my friend decided to pay on my behalf. After a happy dinner, we greeted each other, and I left for the tube station. I loved the tubes during lonely, odd hours when it was awfully quiet. I’d think the most in those hours while I stared out the dungeonous pathway. Occasionally, I’d eavesdrop, too. I’d never really miss home because I’d notice: I’d notice their leering eyes, their broken soul, their fidgety tips, their demeanour, their strained temples above their brows. When I was younger, I secretly wanted to be a detective. I’d lose myself in everything that I never had time to miss.

As I reached the tube station, I hit my Oyster card at the sensor and realised that I had forgotten to top up my travel card. Co-incidentally, I realised that my phone battery had also died. I spotted a payphone at the corner, at the tube station. I scrambled through my coin pocket in my wallet and spent all my British pennies calling my friend. He knew it was an unknown number, so he didn’t pick up. There I was, with no money, with a card that wasn’t working, and an Oyster card which was not topped up.

I got out of the station and decided to take a black cab. I prayed for a gentle soul. I was told that cab owners in London were frustrated with some groups of young people; they’d get drunk and pretend to pass out in the cabs because they didn’t have any money to pay. This had never happened to me before. I was always overcautious when I’d go out. I’d usually have all my essentials: my wallet with extra cash, card wallet, travel card, my ID, make-up bag, wet wipes, a bottle of water, etc.

Anyway, I thought the cab driver would be curt; I thought he’d be churlish and mean. I thought my final destination was the cop station. I had mentally prepared my speech. I asked the cab driver to stop at the nearest ATM. His kind words felt like he didn’t mind. I asked to stop at a second machine, and my card failed again. By then, the driver had read my pensive state. He tried to brush away my nervousness and calmed me down. In my mind, I was praying endlessly for God to get me out of this situation.

The driver had done the math. He knew I had no money. I left my handbag in the cab and promised him I’d return with my other card. He assured me again, “don’t worry, miss.” As the elevator closed behind me, I realised I did not know where my other card was. Did I misplace it? Why wasn’t it in my wallet? Where on earth could it possibly be? I hurtled into my apartment and searched my bedroom, the dining area, the kitchen and bathroom, nothing! I was hopelessly whimpering, crying and panicking, all at the same time. I began to cry to the Lord. By then, I had given up as I knelt and prayed at the corner of my bed. As I began to pray, I saw my card in front of me. I had seen the card many times in my life before, but never had it looked so beautiful. A white card gleaming at me, waiting to be picked up. I began to thank the Lord with excitement and let out a sigh of relief.

As I hurried out of my apartment, my happy soul ran past lamp posts in the dark, hushed street. Suddenly, I felt like all the nerves in my body had quivered to a full stop like the quiet, resting town of Clapham. I have come to this conclusion, that no matter where I am and how I did, God will always hear my cry.

Psalms 34:17

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.”

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