The anxious dash across the footbridge
as I race against the clock
to make it to platform on time
is met with the anti-climax
of digital lettering informing me
that the train has been DELAYED.
The panicking passengers ponder
if the platform on which they’re placed
is the one they need to get home,
like every nervous glance certifies
the destination a bit more.
But at last, as if scoffing at their doubt,
the train strolls in casually and unapologetically,
its arrival met with relief as the swarm of citizens
shuffle into the carriages, as they flee
from the severely bitter night-time air.
Everyone sits down,
hoping that the two spaces beside them
remain vacant for the rest of the journey,
before staring determinedly down at the floor
(either to avoid the conductors glare;
to avoid paying for the service which they are using
simply to avoid human interaction altogether).
Directly to the left of my chosen seat
is a toilet, which I’m sure has seen
far worse scenes than the run-down
towns we’ll shortly be passing.
Noone quite appreciates its multi-functionality,
whether it be used for its intended purpose
when people rush to it as the train arrives
having been desperate for quite a while,
used by the overindulged pukers
on their way home from an evidently good night,
or used by the ticketdodgers as a favourite
(but always failing) hideout.
In the seats in front of the toilet is an intoxicated couple who,
were it not for their contrasting attires
I might have thought one person
that they be so tightly knotted together.
Her over-manicured fingers, painted a deep crimson
run through his swept back hair whilst his
wander elsewhere, revealing even more
than her skirt already does, in a display of class
starkly contrasted to his stately suit.
I can’t help but wonder
exactly where this journey will end
for these two middle-aged lovers tonight.
In front of me, a rugged looking fellow
fights against sleep, his eyelids flickering
like the decrepit bulb above me,
no doubt sent drowsy by the dowsing
fumes from the heating above
which hums monotonously
and bears down on me unbearably.
Bearded head in dirty hand
and a huge boulder of a bag
lumbered lazily beside him,
will he defeat sleep’s attempt
to make him miss his stop?
At the other end of the carriage
is a group of young males,
sporting baseball caps and hooded tops.
Their loud voices match their brash swagger
and perhaps unsurprisingly
with her umbrella propped neatly
against her small tartan trolley,
the petrified old lady across
peeks past the pages of her newspaper
which tell the tales of thuggish brutes and rioting teens
as though she could be the victim
of tomorrow morning’s headlines.
But to her relief, the harmless sheep
dressed in wolves clothing
leave the train at the next stop,
and are replaced by a man in a pair of shorts
far too short for this late hour.
Too late to have partaken in any
sporting activity, but seemingly too drab
to have partaken in any other activity besides,
I speculate what possessed him to wear something
so ill-fitting for the cloudless nights
and for his milky stick-legs.
We wait at the same stop for a while,
the passengers looking around
to see what the cause of the delay is
(even the couple's tongues have unglued).
It is eventually announced
that we are waiting for a connection train
from some parallel tin of unfortunate passengers
by the juxtaposition of the jovial ding dong
with the dreary man’s announcement,
who seems as shuttered off as the surrounding scenes,
probably with a watchful eye on the clock
waiting for finishing time shortly after this last service.
But for now there’s movement again…
We’re gathering momentum,
the train driver sensing the unrest
amongst his customers,
who will already arrive
back to wherever they’re destined
later than anticipated,
as we pass through a tunnel
that has no sign of light at the other side,
only the same barren black,
just another meaningless dot on the map
full of smaller dots
in their square houses.
As for me, I’m sat here alone,
as dejected and detached as everyone else,
with no company,
no newspaper, no novel, no paper, no headphones
not even scenery;
orange lit lampposts are the only things
piercing the pitch black sky.
So the only comfort I have
is the note section on my phone,
restricted and uncongenial,
finding that observation
is much more enticing than communication.
At last, the train makes its final stop,
and the remaining passengers all scurry for the door
just as hastily as they had done to get on,
as though the train would set off back in the opposite direction
if they took their time.
The couple giggling, the tired man staggering,
the old woman using her trolley as a battering ram
on the ankles of people in her way,
and the man in shorts shivering along.
At the station, I still have many miles to go
before I’m home
but I think I’ll save that for another page…