Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Train Ride

Today I thought I would post a short story; not something I do very often. I would be interested in hearing how you respond to it:

A Train Ride

I stand on the platform. It could be anywhere in the world. A pigeon struts, pigeon-toed, around my legs. I am another pillar, holding up the roof, but subject to sudden, inexplicable movements. The pigeon, too, could be any pigeon anywhere. Words float in the air around me in another tongue—not just anywhere, then. The words refuse to stay out there, in the air, and wriggle their way into my ears, into my mind.

The train—I hear it approaching, see its single eye in the darkened tunnel. I am still fixed in place—that pillar. Here I stay. Here the door will roll to a halt. Here is the button, which I push. Air seems to rush into the train, as people rush out from the other side. There is, in general, a predominance of hissing and swishing.

To the right is the vacant seat, into which I fold myself, folding myself yet more tightly around myself, lest I be touched. Sometimes I read, but today I am bookless, Kindle-less. The floor at my feet becomes a refuge for my gaze. I see, mainly, feet. Knee high boots, worn sneakers. I imagine, if I do not precisely sense, their odour. Other odours there are, however. Damp odours. Garlic, too, I think. I become acutely aware of the air I am breathing. Air that others have breathed before me. How much of her, I wonder, am I breathing in. She sits next to me. Her arm and shoulder brush against mine. I cannot retreat. I don’t look at her except fleetingly, brushing her with the periphery of my vision.

A dreamlike state creeps upon me. The world becomes a little fuzzy, sounds a background buzz. Except that some words in English cut through the fuzz. An Australian accent that has the password into my awareness.

“Yeah. Last time I was home I managed to catch up with…” But the rest is lost as the train pulls up at a stop, doors open, letting in air, letting out smells… and people. Did the Australian accent leave? I am not sure.

Within my fuzz I am surprise at how quickly we arrive at the stop before mine. I move my bag slightly, where it rests on the floor between my legs. It is a ritualistic, preparatory move. Also a claim of ownership, as I grasp one of the straps. Lest my bag escape. The world appears, for a moment, like the kind of place in which bags yearn for freedom and make a break for it at the first opportunity. There is another button to push. So I push it. How would it be, to be a button in this world that no one ever took the time to push?

I stand now as the train approaches my stop, swaying a little unsteadily, grasping the handhold. I notice that the train has already discharged most of its occupants. Others also stand ready to disembark. I move against the tide, to the left, which involves side-stepping, this way and that. I do not like being a rock in the stream that divides the flow. Then the way is clear and I make my way—and it is my way, no one else takes this route. I am convinced that this shaves a few milliseconds off the walk from the train to my office. So I walk through the air that I have parted before, many times, re-enforcing my pheromone trail, staking my claim on this small fragment of the universe.

Somehow, I have made it again.

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