We took the Gatwick train out of London and made our way southwest 25 miles.
The day before we were ducking out of all-you-can-eat buffets in Chinatown, still waiting to see if the position, any position, would come through. We had met in Prague: he, the Australian backpacker, and I, the American English teacher. Now in the UK, he was employable and I was not. Then the word came: Positions available, couples preferred. Bar and server experience a must. All pay under the table, room and board inclusive. Start tomorrow. One Love, Two Cultures: Making It Work
Watching from the window, my eyes followed the changing panorama: industrial cityscape; baguette stalls lining the commuter stops; row houses, all identical except for the garbage littered gardens, but even then, that too, took on a cloak of uniformity. We passed bleak urban villages now indistinguishable amongst the city's sprawling grasp, yet still managing distinction if but in name only: Chiddingfold, Effingham, Limpsfield, Titsey, Leatherhead…
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A vendor passed through the aisle but there was no hoping for a baguette that journey. In a flash we had fled our Highbury share early that morning, leaving only a used speaker and PlayStation to make good last week's rent. Our pockets were empty, save a pound, and our stomachs still tense from a likely imagined chase.
And then it happened; it all disappeared: the city and its sludge and the awful months we had spent there poor and squabbling over one another's personal failings as travelers, lovers and even friends. The thoughts: I should have stayed. You shouldn't have come... It all gave way—almost instantaneously—to the white snow and the pastoral palette of the English countryside. We were now in Surrey, and quickly approaching our final destination within the village of Betchworth: the Red Lion Pub and Inn. The World's 10 Best & Worst Lovers
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The chalky cliffs of Box Hill marked our arrival. Next stop: Dorking, where we were to await our transportation to the Pub. Descending from the train, we dropped our baggage and stared up at the surroundings, gripped in place by the prospect that this new vista was now ours in its enormity; and I, but perhaps he as well, giving secret thanks for all that room to run away in.
The pound was spent at the petrol station on two tins of spaghetti for dinner. Michael, the manager and our new boss, found us there, easily spotting us as newcomers amongst the world-weary locals immune to their everyday locale. Polite conversation followed introductions as we embarked on the final leg of our journey. Just outside city limits, down a street known only as The Street and finally turning at last onto The Old Road we were there.