Originally published in Edition One (2023).
As a child, I was always captivated by the early morning. Whether it was my birthday, Christmas day, or just an ordinary Sunday, I always felt this extreme excitement in waking up before the sun rises. It feels as though you are the only person around to witness such a fragile silence. A silence that fades away with every car that chugs down the highway.
Maybe my life would be easier if I just got my license and whizzed around in a car, I think to myself, when my alarm goes off at 4:45am. Stumbling out of bed, I begrudgingly dress myself in smart casual wear before resentfully marching down the street to the nearest train station.
But as I walk out onto the street, I’m reminded of that same delicate beauty that only exists in the quiet hours of the early morning. The station car park is empty; not in a creepy way, but tranquil way, as if the space itself is far away, off in dreamland.
For a single moment, everything is still.
There’s five minutes till my train arrives, but I don’t bother putting headphones on. It’s not completely silent, but I take the time to take in the sounds that momentarily cut through the silence. It’s too early for any bird-chirping, but the trees they’re all resting in rustle in the wind. I can hear the occasional car in the distance and the dedicated, solitary cyclist huffing as he climbs the hill. There’s a low humming of undercurrent electricity emanating from one of the nearby buildings and, if I listen hard enough, the faint purr of a stray cat.
By the time I board the train, the current population of my carriage consists of myself, seven tradies, one passenger dressed in scrubs who has fallen asleep, and what appears to be two best friends heading home after a big night out.
The world outside the carriage remains fast asleep, and I can tell everyone inside the train is envious of such slumber. Well, almost everyone.
One of the tradies is watching something intently on their phone. They haven’t put headphones in so the entire carriage can hear the obnoxiously intense theme song for whatever Game of Thrones-inspired show is playing. The speakers on the phone appear to slightly muffle the sound, but not enough to save my ears from picking up on the obscenely incestuous sounds that seemed to have travelled across the half-empty carriage.
I make eye-contact with a few of the other passengers—we don’t know whether to laugh at the salacious sounds or show our frustration over its interruption of the quiet. Eventually, one of the older tradies walks over and says,
“Hey mate, do you mind putting headphones in or watching ya show later? I’d like to enjoy my breakfast without hearing all those crude sounds coming out of your mobile phone.”
A sudden swell of stillness returns to the carriage, but it doesn’t last for long. As we pass through each stop, the sun slowly starts to ascend further into the sky, and the early morning mumbles digress into waves of chatter throughout the same carriage.
As I look out the window, I notice a positive correlation between the sunrise and the number of middle-aged women in Kathmandu puffer jackets, walking their dogs. At this stage, the train is starting to collect more school-age children. One’s even attempting to carry a double bass through the door, whilst the remaining gaggle of students are dreading what I assume is an early morning cross-country run.
By the time I reach Flinders Street, that early morning tranquillity has vanished. There are phones buzzing and motors revving. Up the escalators, I’m being pushed and shoved by various bodies clad in suits, clutching briefcases. The mystical ambience of the early morning has been replaced by a strident atmosphere. Until the tranquillity returns, early tomorrow morning.