I’m sitting in Central Station only minutes after nine p.m. I’m sitting on the third allotment of benches upon the quasi-deserted strip dividing platforms Two and Three; only Eight and One house locomotives. An eerie silence pervades the entire complex, broken only by 144 sq ft television mounted on the northern wall, adjacent to a gang of vending machines. This colossus softly enforces popular music videos and commercial advertisements upon iPod-less late night station dwellers, a group that includes me in their ranks.
Aside from the various fluorescent lights and green exit signs, only the rolling, illuminated wall mounted ads serve to prevent any extended nocturnal daydreaming; the uncomfortable absence of the familiar hum of train engines provokes one to become introspective.
I hear a cleaner’s cough and look up. Only the blue cart remains.
Two female department store employees accompany me on this red brick divide. One large, one not. Both dressed in black: an intentionally slimming uniform? Possibly. The remnants of an outdated institution. I chose not to sit next to one, the other chose not to sit next to me. A meaningless slight.
The benches that house their asses are different from mine. The function and materials coincide, the forms do not: a feeble attempt at differentiating the station’s interior architecture? The boring man’s aesthetic.
Mine has six seats facing platform Three. Theirs have three facing Two and toward Three faces three more.
The commander of on One just sparked the engines into life, pleasuring us with that familiar ambient hum; an audible cushion between weary station residents is born.
My bench is blue, the station bench uniform. It needs to see the tailor. My olive green satchel, housing a multitude of personal treasures and scraps, looks akin to an oblong pool of vomit upon the sky blue background. (How are pools of vomit not oblong? One cannot predict the shape of vomit whilst retching).
A twenty to thirty-year-old man saunters past me, arrogance evident in his gait. An intentional attempt at intimidation? A white hat, striped track pants, polo and runners act as a shell for his dilapidated self. His state of being is reflected in the trolley he pulls, it has fallen into disrepair.
Six just arrived. An extremely ordinary and aesthetically displeasing bunch disembark. The ambient hum did not increase. I am within the proximity of One’s engines thus others have no audible affect on my ears.
My seats, and I suppose others, boast a myriad of small pencil width holes. Thirty-six across, sixty-seven down. The two thousand, four hundred and twelve holes are bound to leave an imprint on my arse and back when I finally rise. I must turn my back on no one.
A train just entered the roomy interior of Three. Will my fellow platform occupants and I be able to board immediately? Or is this train destined for the yard on such a peacefully warm night? An even more, if that is distinctly possible, ordinary bunch of miscreants exit this train. No doubt using the entirety of their motor skills and mental capabilities to remove their carcasses from my transport.
I wait for all within my field of view to enter the train’s interior, then I board.
The kitschy, brown-tartan covered seats provide a higher level of comfort, compared with the uniformly blue benches on the platform, yet one’s eye takes offence. I sit with my legs up, crossed, on the middle of three seats opposite me.
(As I entered the carriage, the cleaner hurtled past, emanating an intense air of purpose, hastily hunting any devious pieces of rubbish that have escaped their careless owners’ clutches. Any pieces of rubbish caught tarnishing the black, bumpy rubber floor would be dealt with swiftly).
I forget to validate my red peak-hour multi trip. I return to the machine and fumble my ticket, helplessly watch it tumble to the floor, and have it stare at me as if it were a first date waiting to have a car or restaurant door opened for her. With an air of chivalry, I pick it up and slowly insert it. After the machine prints the time at which I can no longer travel for free, I take it out and sit back down.
The slim one in black sits across from me, on the other side of the carriage, to my left.
A couple – man with long brown hair, woman with regular red – try their utmost to fill only one seat with their two pubescent bodies. They must revel in the sight of the seat covers. Are they hugging or embracing? For there is possibly a difference: friends hug, lovers embrace. If I were hugging someone in such a manner it would as an act of comfort, to feel another’s Platonic warmth in the hope they drain the weariness of a day from myself. To embrace is to feel a burning desire in one’s loins, a precursor to being physically one with another.
I would neither hug nor embrace upon a train. They are degenerates.
Alas, they are embracing. She, the regular red, kisses his obviously pimply, hairy neck or whispers something and nothing into his adolescent ear, of which I shall never know, her mane of red obstructs the discovery of such secrets.
The fat one in black sits on my side of the carriage, across from them, just beyond the ticket machine. (She must be frustrated. Inserting her ticket had deeper meaning: she continuously inserts it incorrectly until finally the machine takes it). We are mirror passengers. The skinny one and I, the couple and the fat one.
I no longer hear One’s hum for it has departed; Three acts as a perfect audible substitute. Alas, when the doors close the ambient cushion will cease and an intimacy will be born to the passengers occupying this carriage.
A black man, of seemingly obvious Caribbean descent, boards, pushing a baby’s pram laden with not only his worldly possessions but those required to gain a living from busking. He is in peak physical condition, a specimen of a man. He is an acrobat, I believe. I may have witnessed his skills in the mall one time, he managed to bend his back into an impossible angle and slowly make his way under a half-foot high bar: an oddly, unnecessary skill to have.
The ticket inspector approaches. An aura of arrogance is perceptible to those looking at it. He attains this from the presence of the surly, burly, dim-witted security guard shadowing his every step. The mongoloid tells me to remove my feet from the centre seat opposite me. He deserves not the air he breathes. Blatant abuses of power, for my feet are clean.
They wait for the train to halt. They converse about how many repetitions of an innocuous exercise can be achieved before one’s ATP-CP stores are momentarily depleted. Barbarians.
As the train pulls into the first of many predetermined stops, they traverse the out-of-bounds gap between carriages. The inspector makes it safely to the front carriage; to my amusement, the guard does not. He has somehow caught one of his garments upon an object invisible to my laughing eyes.
Both doors fasten. His efforts of frantic desperation are futile. The train wakes from its momentary dormancy and departs the station.
I catch the skinny one gazing at me.
He begins to fret now. The doors will not open whilst the locomotive roars through the no-man’s land separating the stations.
Its safe for me to put my feet on the seat again, only this time on the right one. A deliciously defiant victory.
The next station approaches. We stop. He is far too preoccupied with his predicament to reach up and pry open the door. Logic has given way to fear.
The couple are leaving. A night of adolescent decadence awaits them, a night of saucy revelry. I watch them disembark but lose sight of their figures in the orange glow of the streetlights, the reflection on the window is too bright. I change my focus from the immediate window to the nocturnal world beyond. Lights occupy the landscape, astral and electric. The web-like outlines of ghost gums spread out in front of me but disappear instantly.
I must get off soon. My feet are still on the chair, the dim-witted guard is still in his bind, the skinny girl is watching, the Calypso man is tampering with his pram, the frisky adolescents are almost home.
Station Three. The train stops, I terminate my voyage. The air is warm. I stalk into the night.