I seem to have spent many hours at train stations recently and I am draw to them, to their sense of purpose, of people moving and having plans, like they belonged, like there were places where they could go and I watch.
There are those moments, you know, when the announcement crackles overhead and the voice has such authority and it warns. Instructions issued, orders to follow and they implore us to keep away from the edge. The next train will not stop. There’s something cold about the words like a noose on a breeze and it hangs there. And then the seconds, then the air turns to anticipation. Feathers caught up in the slipstream, tussle to a safer place, a pigeon beats the detritus upwards and settles out of sight in the flaking paint of the eaves. He senses it coming.
And then it comes. There are these blisters you see, these weals of the world where people wait and wonder. It seems as though, for a frozen beat of our collective hearts that everyone waits and watches from the corner of our eyes. Is it today, is it this moment that they will choose to jump in front of the train? And we are braced, we bristle as the air charges, almost throbs with the approaching sound. And it’s nearly here and we watch and it comes. It’s here, the joyous cut, the ripping surge of an irresistible force, turning the station to dust, screaming by in grey and black. Grey-black, grey-back, grey-black whips my face to come inside, I am sucked into its rhythm, I dissolve in the repeats as it calls out I still live.
I live – I live – I live, listen to me, I’m here with all the potential to tear the heart from your form, to sculpt your skin onto my windscreen and it shrieks and it thunders and I sit, blurred in the fracture as it moves. The opposite platform startles into view, the moment that has passed and taken my hair with it, blown across my face with the chill of actions un met and I am numb.
It dips away to a hollow moaning, paper flutters in a distant screech as it leaves us and no one speaks. No one dares to raise an eye towards the look of a stranger because if we did, if we made that connection to another soul, then we might see them and in that glance, in that act of holding someone’s gaze, we might see ourselves – small and shaking, trembling in a fear we dare not name. And so we look down, we shuffle our stance and pretend we haven’t we shared the thought.
The platform settles, quiet and I check my ticket. I am still waiting for a train but not that one, not the one that doesn’t stop, not today, not here, not now. Not now in this fracture, in this scar of people with places to go to from my platform.
And I am alone in my head and I wait.
I had to read this a couple of times to fully digest it all. I am so overwhelmed by the story you just told. Do you mind if you could explain where you got this idea from and what inspired you to write it? I don’t want to complete share what my interpretation of the post is yet because I feel like there is so much substance to it that I am currently unaware of. For the time being I will say that your words on how we neglect the gaze of strangers which is ultimately a key to their soul really resonated with me.
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Thank you for your thoughts on my words. Much appreciated.
I have been travelling recently and observing people at stations which formed the background to the piece.
We are all connected and its that sense of isolation in a crowd that I find most intense…we avoid strangers, it seems, yet so many of us are longing to make essential link to another.
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