My train is normally crowded in the mornings, and I have to stand. It doesn’t bother me, as it’s a short trip and being tall I can scrutinise the passengers for signs of mediocrity and weirdness.
There’s the phone people, of course. The Sudoku man who probably thinks the arranging of numbers 1-9 in boxes is infinitely more rewarding than his job. The iPod people, little white pluglets sucking them into another world. That hipster woman drinking what appears to be a large jar of warm piss…no, it’s just herbal tea in a pretentious container. She’s probably too cool to get burnt.
The sleeping people make me saddest. It’s not that early in the morning, but they obviously didn’t get enough rest last night. How often does that happen for them? Some look peaceful, while others have their head in their hands or are lolling against the window.
My Aunty Colleen is sleeping a lot at the moment. She’s at the end stage of her cancer, and is now at home. We’ve spoken on the phone, and even over Facetime. She’s had lots of visitors. The people in my train are waiting to get somewhere, while she’s waiting for hers to arrive.
I’m having difficulty standing up, but then I always do. I’m one of those people that holds desperately onto the bars while the train hurtles along a wobbly bit of track designed by the same people who make Warner Brothers cartoons. Others seem to stand with no effort, in the middle of the carriage, reading the newspaper.
I did that for the first few times I caught the train, then discovered there was even less to interest me in Australian newspapers than in New Zealand ones. Someone’s paying too much money, someone doesn’t have enough money, some arsehole has said something offensive or some team has won a cup.
I like cups, especially if they have coffee in them. Aunty Colleen was good at making cups of coffee, and the chocolate biscuit box was always full. I don’t know who will keep it full now. I don’t think any of us do.
She has a hospital bed in her room, a reclining chair to sit in, and has to be helped to and from the toilet. For a woman that has been so independent in the 65 years she’s been on earth, I don’t know how that makes her feel. She’s so tired right now I don’t think it would bother her.
Always the designated driver, I think she’d enjoy the train right now. None of us have to take any responsibility. We just get on before the door closes and wait for it to take us where we want to go, or beyond. No-one says I have to get off at this next stop. I could just keep going and see what happens.
It’ll eventually reach the end of the line, though. There’ll be a man on the platform saying “all change”, his voice sharp and distorted through the speakers.
It’s an uncomfortable sound, but we must obey the instructions.