“Piece of cake” the cabbie said as he gestured to the news placard. He was driving me across town.
“Enjoying eating the cake will be more iffy” I added. Then as the cab paused at a interception, an uncontrolled mess of horses, cabs, carriages, and lorries tangled in streets covered with horse shit, I saw someone walking around the street. I stared. It was George Singh Taylor! He was grown up of course but it was Singh! He was in an uniform and walking with a man and woman who were also in the same sort of uniform. I tossed money at the cabbie and jumped out to try to find him! But try as I might I could not find my childhood friend in the crowds milling along the sidewalk. Mulish, I walked two miles to the Sikh Temple to trace Singh down. I had to be able to contact him through his temple! Yet apparently no one had ever heard of George Singh Taylor. Vexed, I paced the steps infuriated. Then suddenly I saw the British Officer who had long ago at Gallstone School, picked up Singh that day when we said goodbye. I ran down the steps as he stood there as if at attention, as if waiting for me. He had not apparently changed one iota. He still stood ramrod straight, his uniform crisp, his turban precise, his swagger stick under one arm in that neat way of his. He smiled as I ran up. “You won’t remember me I am…”
“John Nicholson —- of India” he replied crisply.
“Yes. Yes. I am looking for Singh. I saw him! On the street! Grown up but I….”
“Yes. John! John! John!” The officer took my arm in his and we strolled down the crowded sidewalk. “John. The thing is. John. May I call you John? John. The thing is John. You are not one of us.”
“But… but …. Singh was my best friend. Well. My only friend. But we were the best of friends and…”
“We are all related here John. But you are not one of us. Nor are we one of you. A relationship can never be. What you hope for can never be. You are not one of our kind. You can never be one of our kindred.”
“But…. but…. I can convert!” I exclaimed perfectly silly.
“John. Have you ever met anyone who appears quite normal yet at the same time also appears somehow out of joint with the time or the place?”
“Mother Hogg but…”
“There are people who appear to be here yet at the same time are not here. It is like a loop in time as it were. Time is not linear John. Time is like a spring. It coils. It loops. It expands and contracts. And sometimes if two coils loop very close together then one could step from one coil onto another coil quite easily ….. but then….”
A man in the crowd bumped into me and I paused and then turned back but the British officer was gone. Quite gone. And I was quite alone in the middle of the busy crowd on the sidewalk. I took at cab to the British Library and I researched for hours but I could not find that insignia the British officer wore, or Singh, or the other man and woman he was walking with. Nor could I trace the uniform or any such name which I did for the rest of the day at Somerset House.