I wish I could say you were standing on the platform edge as the train pulled away, but the automated ticket barrier has done away with the lovers’ farewell. We said goodbye in the car park, the dirty snow encasing the wheels of my suitcase and your cherry red boots and the mudguards of our car.
There were the usual words. I love you (this is true.) I will miss you (also true.) There was an embrace in which I inhaled the scent of your hair, and there was a kiss that happened quickly, not to make a scene.
And then there is me, turning to walk to the platform and suddenly realising, stopping, asking you if you have three pounds for a cup of tea on the train. I have no change and my bank hasn’t been keen on letting me use my card recently. Without your small generosity there will be no tea on the five-hour ride.
It is a small thing; three small coins, a paper cup of overpriced steaming liquid. A sugar sachet and a plastic pot of UHT milk. But it always pains me to ask for things, even small ones. Even from you.
Ask and it shall be given.
You slip something into my hand and then you’re gone, or I’m gone. Both. But when I open my hand it contains two ten pound notes.
And this is when I cry. It is with this action that you undo me and my self-sufficiency. I asked for enough, and you overwhelmed me with something that went beyond generosity and became holy. It wasn’t your words or even your kisses. It wasn’t the fact of the money, damp in my hand in the snow. It was grace. Pure grace. I don’t know what to do with it.
Somewhere between Durham and York I buy a cup of tea. I warm my hands and watch England rush by dressed in white. I drink grace deep deep down. I cry again. I tell God in a small voice that love hurts. I have been marked by it in a way that is so hopeful that it is almost painful.
Of course, he knows this already.
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart
(Roll Away Your Stone, Mumford and Sons)