Life in the Lost Property office
Thomas brought me to life with the beat of his delicate fingers. He conjured me from the void in which I languished.
I was a child of his life; I lived for him and him for me.
For two years I was of utmost importance to him.
We were so completely wrapped up in each other and I mirrored all that was good in him. I knew every aspect of his life. His role in the Arab uprising against the Turks; the daring young man who became a leader; who spent his life with the Arabs and learnt their ways and came to admire them. I revelled in his exploits as he revealed himself to me; the long treks across the desert from Wadi Rum, the sabotage, blowing up of bridges and insurrection against the Turkish masters.
Then came that fateful day in 1919 when we lost each other.
Thomas was running behind schedule and anxious. He wasn’t functioning well. I could sense that.
As we approached the station at Reading he became very agitated. He had to make the connection to London. Time was tight. Anxiously he kept looking at his watch, and as the train pulled in he flung the door back and rushed across the station.
…….. However he had forgotten about me.
Inexplicably, unimaginably, he left me sitting on that train, alone and bereft. I could not move. I could not shout out. I just sat there helpless as Thomas strode out of my life.
I don’t know how long I sat there. The train pulled out of Reading station and continued its journey for what seemed a long time.
I had been abandoned.
Eventually a man began to take an interest in me. When he left the train I went along with him. I was grateful. He took me home and I spent the night at his house. I could hear much discussion taking place across the table as the man and his wife ate their evening meal and talked about what to do with me.
The next day he set off early, taking me with him. He called in on the stationmaster, they had a brief conversation, and then he left me there.
I had high hopes of being reunited with Thomas but that was not to be. The stationmaster was a busy man. He had no time for the likes of me. I was a nuisance and of no concern. He plonked me in the corner and paid me no attention.
All day I sat there, full of Thomas, longing to be reunited.
Days went past and nothing happened. I knew nothing of the horror that Thomas had gone through on discovering my disappearance – of the anguish he felt. I knew nothing of how he had retraced his steps vainly trying to track me down, and I had no inkling of the public notifications that were part of his frantic search.
The stationmaster had me transferred to another office where once again I sat and waited.
Weeks turned into months and then years. Nobody bothered about me. I was pushed to the back and ignored.
Inside me, Thomas remained just as vivid as ever, captured with all his vitality, but I knew he had moved on. His life had become obsessed with another. He had come to terms with the loss and I knew those delicate fingers had brought another to life.
Fortunately I was spared the news of his death, in a motorbike accident, fourteen years later. All I understood was the Thomas that had been, the young man so full of life and adventure.
He will live on in me forever.
Thomas Edward Lawrence never found me and neither has anyone else. To this day I sit in a dust coated briefcase on a shelf, waiting to be claimed.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – by T.E.Lawrence – the first manuscript was left in a briefcase on a train at Reading station in 1919 and lost forever. Despite public appeals and frantic searching it was never tracked down. It had to be rewritten from memory and a second draft finally produced in 1922.
I imagine it sitting on a dusty shelf in a Railway Lost Property office.