Behind The Shell

Behind The Shell

He sat staring ahead while listening to a rock song – his eyes focussed on the Central Line map. The London Underground tube train was speeding towards Marble Arch as my friends and I glanced at him from seats opposite.

Looking at him, anyone of the same ilk would say that he had the best music and the best tattoos. I could see that an angry skeleton was emerging from his collarbone and a bloody dagger from both wrists.

His hair was so black it glowed purple. The two rings in his left nostril jingled together each time the train came to a jolt. His expressionless eyes were lined with thick black kohl that made them look like a furious  pharaoh. As for the chain that hung from his hips – it could have easily held down four vicious pitbulls.

Most parts of his body were draped in dark leather and his boots were so huge, a footprint from them would frighten the meanest leopard.

With earphones positioned on both sides of his head, it was evident he was concentrating on the melody playing at top volume. Had the train not been so loud, I’m sure the bass tones would have been felt clearly, thumping through my chest..

My companions were not used to travelling in the capital city, so they were unaware of the ‘Don’t stare a crazy person in the eye’ rule. So while I averted my gaze, the other 3 scrutinised him with bemusement.

“Love is death!”

He suddenly shouted.

I closed my eyes to avoid the temptation to glance across.

“Love is death!”

He shouted again.

Like many hard-core rock music lyrics, the words sounded like they were penned by someone who was deeply depressed. Sad and angry. Angry and sad.

It came again:

“Love is death!”

This went on for ages. Each time the sang his strange declaration, he became more impassioned and begun to look our way when he realised he had our attention.

I bit my lip, Marjorie pulled her cheeks in, Nigel closed his eyes and Abigail got out a book.

All of a sudden, Marjorie could bear it no longer and let out the loudest laugh. She put her hands up to her face to cover her eyes and leant forward with her shoulders shaking rapidly. Like a domino effect, her outburst set the rest of us off and we all sat in a row, bodies quivering in hysterics.

Our entertainer got the response he’d craved and moved onto a quieter song.

Had any of us been in a carriage with him all on our own, I don’t think our rocker ‘friend’ would have seemed so amusing. His attire and actions were chosen deliberately to intimidate people or to at least cause them to notice him.

But no matter how tough we pretend to be, we are all desperate to be loved, appreciated and understood.

Scary make-up, a bolshy manner, vocabulary littered with expletives, a plethora of tattoos, tribal art on our backs, a noisy car exhaust, a satanic bracelet, martial art awards, rebellion and an air of nonchalance may make us feel we are cool, tough and to be revered.

However, when we are approaching the time to be taken out of this world, we are as vulnerable as a newborn babe.

When singer-man reached his destination, he stood up, chains clanking, leather squeaking.

But just before he had time to grab hold of the thick railings near the train doors, two items fell from the inside pocket of his jacket: a Danielle Steele book and a Chupa Chups lollipop. Not a Cannabis spliff and a book on Wicca – a soppy love story and kiddie candy.

On his clown-white skin, a crimson colour spread from his neck to his forehead, indicating that these were his possessions. Once more, there were smiles along our row.

Maybe deep down, he wasn’t comfortable with who he was portraying himself to be. Maybe he considered his tattoos to be ugly, maybe the heavy chains caused him lower-back pain, maybe the thick leather caused him to sweat profusely and maybe, just maybe, his ears hurt from the high decibels going through them. Who knows?

All I know is, despite the tough exterior we like to show to the world, there’s a big softie inside all of us. Have a great day.



  1. Love this great word picture! And you are so right—all that rough exterior just tries to hide how vulnerable and needing of love we all are inside ❤️


  2. Powerful…and powerfully sad. You are right; we all need love. We can’t judge others because there but for the grace of God go we. Perhaps he doesn’t know The Street to Love and has taken the only pavement he could find.


  3. Wow!!! First of all thank you for the compliment. I just read your blog and it is amazing. You’re a gifted writer. Keep on writing more about depression because it use to be a real problem for me. It spoke to in so many ways.


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