Hopes For Across The Seat

8 August 2016

The lady with the mechanical cog tattooed on her back sits with her left leg decisively crossed over her right. Her strategically worn scoop back singlet treats her fellow passengers to the fading ink between her shoulder blades. I hope she enjoys the sunshine today.

Across from her, the man with a melancholic expression looks out the window, his elbow resting assuredly on the frame. His aviator sunglasses shield his retinas from the meek mid June rays, rays that valiantly strive to warm the cold Melbourne commuters. He is still in a hard and stoic way, and the shadows of rushing trees project meekly onto a face that doesn’t give much away to anyone sharing this morning with him. The aviators stay on even when the train enters the tunnel. I hope he feels safe enough to show his eyes today. I bet they’re nice.

Next to him the young boy in a kitsch tie-dyed muscle tee scratches the thin growth on his jawline absently. A logo on his chest declares a skate brand that I associate negatively with a dirty south side club but he has a solitary quietness about his forlorn stare that refuses to let his tacky garb taint him. He departs our carriage at North Melbourne but gets to his feet long before the train pulls into the station. I hope he is loved, wherever he is going.

Behind them, the lady with the florescent cycling jacket, doing a crossword on the seat of her Shimano palindrome speed bike, never looks up. She scratches letters onto her page and holds the front wheel brake, which ensures she doesn’t go sprawling onto the laps of the other passengers as the train pulls jerkily into Royal Park. She drops her paper just as I decide to write about her and shiny junkmail spills out across the floor. I hope it wasn’t my fault.

Narrowly avoiding her handlebars, the man with speed and time playing on his side leaps into the train just as the electric doors commence their warning bells, sliding together just after his blur of pinstripe business casual dashes in. A silent triumph enters with him as he allows himself just a moment of contained euphoria before pulling out his headphones and facing the opposite doors. I hope that victory stays in his heart today. I think he deserves it.

A trench coat wearing a sighing man steps on with a tartan scarf wound meticulously around the wooden hook of his umbrella. He removes his backpack from his heavy shoulders but doesn’t place it on the ground, instead clutching it in front of him as he scrolls through his day with the his other hand. He suddenly looks up expectantly and unassumingly adjusts his glasses to better scan the carriage briefly before bringing the screen closer to his tired eyes. He has the face of an overworked and under-appreciated accountant but the posture of a Swedish Pilates instructor. I wonder if he always stands up this straight. I hope he has a Labrador or a warm fire to go home to.

The woman with coffee as black as her coat talks unconsciously loudly into her phone, spraying it with vernacular like ‘fruity’ and ‘hustle’ in a vaguely Eastern European accent, worn away by time. When she hangs up, she smiles coldly at her phone for a moment as the contents of her knee-cup lose their scalding temperature. I hope she gets what she needs today.

The golden-skinned man reads from the Quran in the corner, his lips moving silently across script that feels like home. His physical location has been reduced to a simmer on a hotplate, as a hand goes up softly to cradle his face. He doesn’t have much room and his gestures of prayer are subtle on this crowded train, but they are there. I hope his faith brings comfort to his warm heart.

Look at us all swaying in unison as the train eats up the metal tracks in rapid, staggered gulps. The squeak of yellow rubber handles and tinny second-hand music from small earbuds reverberate around this metal transitory home, forming the momentary and circumstantial blend of our respective lives, our collective lives.


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