She stared a little longer before handing it back,
The train ticket lady, wearing a scowl that could
Cut my innocence into eighths.
She compares the photo of my sixteen year old self,
The one with the baby face, short hair lapping my ears,
A chin peppered with acne,
To the one sat rather uncomfortably
In compartment 12, seat 32b,
Me aged 23.
Travel transformed mind, body and soul,
Classically from my passport photo
To this tall, grubby bean pole
Who arrived in Budapest
That Sunday evening.
It was the first time in a month I had looked in a mirror.
My skin was darker, my frame thinner,
Topped with a gaunt face and hairy head
Sustained on cheap hot dogs, noodle pots
And white, sugary bread.
My jaw, a scruffy scrub brush
Going round and round as my teeth kneaded bubblegum
A flavourless breakfast substitute.
I shaved in the train station bathroom,
Washing the razor in hard water
Before raising it to my cheeks, digging deep
Into the roots of my caveman heritage,
Bringing forth that paperboy face
Who first dreamt of travelling
To this feisty, foreign place.