Ok pour me a drink and I’ll tell you about it. Thank you.
Well I was standing on the platform awaiting my train to arrive, when a dark overcast fell upon me sending a light trickle down the side of my brow. I held on to my rucksack as if my dear life depended on it and made a dash to the shelter when I thought no one was looking. But upon my entrance through that shattered green door, there dwelled a silence so thick it clouded my mind and like a curse, it transformed me into 'them'. It felt most uncomfortable.
They were lined up facing opposite each other, on rows of cheap plastic chairs with their briefcases or rucksacks stuck in between their legs or resting on their lap, with nothing but a long black metal bar running underneath supporting their weight. There they sat so tightly compact, sucking in their arms protecting themselves from contact with the person next to them. The only real space they seemed to cherish was this ‘no man’s land’ between them, inhabited by dirty cracked tiles, a white kebab takeaway box and dried bits of chewing gum that had by now merged with the colour of the tiles.
Anyway, you know what it’s like, you make a mad rush to a public shelter, open the door and suddenly you are triggered to conform. I felt an invisible burden weighing me down. The real me was somehow swept aside in a tsunami of beliefs and practices I have never experienced in my solitude. They overthrew my authenticity, stripped me naked as it were, and replaced it with an inauthentic copy of their own. My free spirit was denounced as I stood trial under the shadow of big brother, sending me to squeak past, tiptoe even, in shame of trying to find a plastic flap to sit on.
Oh yes, I found a seat but unfortunately it was smack bang in the middle of the row. Why is it unfortunate? I don’t know, it’s just a feeling I suppose. I remember a teacher of mine saying that she purposely buys a McDonald’s burger and crudely eats it on the train as to ward other passengers away from sitting in her territory. Yes! 'Her' territory! Funny isn’t it? But does this behaviour not tell us something primitive about ourselves? No, no in my country people are the same. I just find this universal phenomenon odd…or maybe I am a little odd? Who is to say! I wonder how people would react if a celebrity was caught sitting in a carriage, would we pursue them manically, in the hope of becoming part of their lives temporary, as brief as a few stops down an old rusty track? And as the people drain away from me trying to catch a glimpse of this figure, should I be happy because I have more space for myself? Or should I be offended?
Anyway, I am babbling on. I sat down, and rested my rucksack on my lap. I wanted to smile but the invisible hand covered my mouth. On my left was a student I think, depressing looking chap, long serious face with pimples here and there, staring out behind the heads of the people opposite us, to the wall ahead it seemed. Curiously, I tried to pinpoint the location of his stare, thinking that he caught sight of a spider or something. But I didn’t seem to see anything. Yet, his mechanical stare struck a cord in me. Are you alright? I asked politely. But his nerve seemed to have got the better of him, as his reply was compiled in words soaked in annoyance and offence. I did apologize, of course, and I turned my head to the old lady next to me with a slight grin on my face seeking acknowledgement of my crime, but she too sat there staring at the wall waiting for me to look away. Did I think this behaviour strange? Why yes indeed, for on closer examination the more melancholically they seemed. Yet some looked content in distracting themselves away from the others by playing around with these mechanical devices in the palm of their hand; some with a wire running up into their ears. Is it the default response to boredom? I asked. Or is it a strategy we use to get away from our real inner core – the self?
Anyhow, my train eventually pulled in at the platform and so I pressed the carriage door button releasing the herd of commuters trapped inside. I tell you, it was like watching a flock of dressed up sheep running wild, all seeking that precious inch of space to fill as they hastily made their way out of the train and up the stairs.
Oh, no I’m fine thank you. I have to drive back home later.
Let me continue. I don’t know why, but I always imagine the many different eloquent professions that flood out of the train at rush hour. Lawyers grasping the handle of their briefcase, business people on the phone talking about Barney’s escapades at the job down in Exeter, designers with their papers, and so on. But then amid this thought, I wonder about their recent bowel movements. Yes, I know it seems absurd, but, you see, there is only so much of an animal you can dress to make appear as a somebody. Does it matter what decision we make whether wearing clean or dirty underwear?
I entered the carriage and took my seat. Thank God most people had left by now, there was so much space I could lie down if I wanted to.
It was a pleasant journey to be honest, but I couldn’t help but notice those damn advertisement boards pasted on the walls. You see after a day in the office I just want my authenticity back. I don’t want to be psychologically raped by these airbrushed adverts of women with crystal white teeth exaggeratingly smiling while holding up a brand of chewing gum. I don’t want to be seen as number, as someone who’s more likely to observe a brand of mobile phone if her curvature is slightly revealed, mesmerizing your attention to something that is essentially a mound of polished raw material. I don’t want to be treated like a consumer yet that is how I appear to be. How disgraced it is to be stuck inside this metal tube, effectively drawn inside while an attempted brainwash takes place.
Sorry I’m going off on one again.
My train eventually pulled up at my stop. This time a young chap pushed the button from the outside, and I left the carriage looking at him smiling just to make a point that it isn’t a crime. Of course he looked at me as if I was weird and made his way onto the train.
When I came out there were a gang of youngsters hanging around the back entrance of the station. As I made my way down the last few steps they smiled at me while I walked past. Great! I thought, so I smiled back to them. Anyway, I didn’t have anything valuable on me so I escaped with some minor cuts and bruises. No, no, honestly, just boys blowing out some steam, you know?
I got home, changed clothes and decided to go out into the garden. It was damp but also very warm, so I poured a glass of red and managed to find some comfort in my solitude. Pulling up a chair I sat down and lit a cigarette, taking in some deep breaths under the beautiful autumn sky.
But then I caught sight of it. That was it! A cold shimmer of enlightenment ran up my spine erecting the hairs on my arms to a military salute as I became overwhelmed with this frightful sense of omniscience. Beside me, pushing its way underneath a dead leaf that draped over an old soggy barrel, the tiny snail goes about its day without an inkling as to my own existence. She doesn’t have to put up with the bizarreness of human nature. She doesn’t have to conform to an absurdly perverse society infatuated with this inauthentic way of living. The trains aid us in our world, while in hers; it is not even a thought. What’s reality for us, is metaphysical for her. Who is closer to their nature? What is nature? I asked myself. It’s a dream in one way, a reality in another; something we know of, yet fail to know it. Still, how badly mistaken are we when we deem this creature inferior, as something mindless, as something primitively simple that lives in the dirt, ignorant of our 'precious' physical discoveries, unaware of our way of doing things. Yet, she lives authentically while we cover it up in our pretense and live an absurdity on the grandest scale.
How was my day you asked? I can answer you in one word: Humiliating!
© 2011 Roberto Nacci All Rights Reserved