I simply cannot understand how the world works sometimes. Everyday we run from pillar to post trying to make a living, trying to survive, to pay the bills, to keep the wolves from our front door. The knock on the front door by a debt collector can be unnerving to those unfamiliar with the gruff demands for money. Mind you, he, she, or even they will not go away until money is paid.
I struggle like most people in the West who have not given up yet, to earn enough money. Just enough to keep myself fed, clothed and in basic accommodation. I try to put a little aside but soon the bills are forgotten, until they re-appear again galloping round the bend like mighty steeds jostling for position. I can never get ahead.
Today a cold morning greets my tired body as I leave the warm confines of my flat to venture outside. On the pavement, I shuffle along. The sun is still asleep, allowing a pitch-black morning. Not a sound anywhere except the tap, tap, tapping of my dress shoes on the wet concrete floor, my shallow breaths, the regular chaffing of the bag against the back of my shoulders.
The night blankets my flesh sucking the warmth from my bones. Thoughts however succulent, however bizarre, begin their merry dance through my mind as I arrive and stand there, waiting for the bus. I think about my life and yearn to be laying on a beach somewhere in tropical Queensland.
Wow wouldn't that be great, I muse. The sun on my face. The sight of beautiful people enjoying the warmth of gentle surf. The golden beaches. The sound of rolling waves in rhythms so soothing, so calming that I may even node off from time to time. Suddenly, the cold breeze bites again and I realise with a shrug, where I am.
I huddle against the cold. The bus finally turns the corner like an old sailing ship on the deep blue sea. A few people sit stoically staring out the window into nothingness. Others try to find a warm dream leaning up against the steel railings. The bus stops for a few minutes then moves off, bumping, turning, shaking, stopping and starting again.
Through the greasy windows I see shadows along the streets partially hidden by the darkness, faces hooded over and under articles of clothing. Silent is the morning, unwilling to give up its traditional embrace, quiet is the moment, as people whisper to the Driver about buying their fare.
I do not understand why people are quiet in the morning. What are they afraid of, why do they whisper? The blue light inside the bus is like a beacon cutting a swathe across the night. The effort of the engine against the quiet, the flashing tick-tock of the vehicle's blinkers as it turns sometimes left and at other times right, the effort of the Driver as he works upon the steering wheel.
Usually, when I catch the train to work it is an early bird travelling through the night towards the blinking lights of the city, silhouetted in the distance. On board, like manikins people sit transfixed, with blank expressions, faces staring into oblivion, some even gritting their teeth as if this ride will not take them to work but to the executioner's gallows.
The train hums along the tracks tunnelling through the night. Stopping and starting, moving a short distance then stopping and starting again. I ride along doing my best to pretend I am somewhere else. Instead of crouched up against the window inside a packed carriage in a fully loaded hot and stuffy box.
I cast furtive glances around me and think about all the other passengers, fellow travellers. I wonder about their lives, who they are, where they are going, what will happen to them today? I guess it is a hobby of mine to compare my life with theirs. Our early morning struggle is a normality I worry about, comrades and together we take this routine as some kind of birthright.
Some of the faces I see on the train each morning grow familiar. By pure habit, I move into the first, the very first carriage of the 6:05am from Albion to the city. Perhaps it is not by habit, perhaps it is the only chance I have of getting a seat. Perhaps it is neither but the presence of a remarkably beautiful girl enduring the same kind of struggle. I sit nearby wanting to say hello, eager to speak with her, to be her friend.
She is someone I can think about and I usually do because she is so beautiful, so special against the blurriness of everyone else. Sometimes, I can even imagine that there is a luminescence around her like an Angel would have. A person of rare kindness against this brutal reality that most of us take for granted. I smile when I see her. An oddity on the train I know, attracting the incredulous glances of other passengers but I do not care, because I see her as 'my' Angel.
Each time I find myself in the first carriage, I move a little closer to her. As if, that magical aura which I imagine her to have is some kind of shield against this world. She too chooses that very first carriage and together we journey into the early morning. She is beautiful, her long dark hair, ravenously alluring, captivating, her soft white skin like full cream milk, her sparkling eyes, large, oval, bright, alive, full of life.
Life is what is important I muse, not this struggle, not this menagerie of chaos infecting our minds with the ceaseless ambiguity of daily effort. Money has come to dominate our thoughts, our decisions, our very concept of social interaction. We think about our jobs, our work, getting up early in the morning to catch the first, second or third train to save a few dollars.
I watch her quietly not as some kind of fiend who thankfully does not rise until well past open time for the Dole office. But as a man in love, kind, gentle, a compassionate man, a worker, a responsible man, a friend. I watch her secretly as her fingers disappear into her bag, her posture erect, elegant, like a Swan. They reappear a moment later with her mobile phone, she looks at the screen and then returns it into the nether regions of her bag, a popular habit with most of us in the carriage.
The train chugs along over steel tracks, a rhythm that seems strangely comforting to me, the girl nearby stares ahead not looking at anyone in particular. I wonder if approaching her would be some kind of sin. I think about it often each time I catch the train although I worry about trying because I may be a coward deep within.
Nevertheless, the drudgery and sameness forces my mind to think about something more beautiful, something worthwhile. Rather than the monotony fuelled daily grind governing our lives today. The proverbial 'rat race' as many call it, hemming us into a narrow parochial view of the world. Where only the predictable are allowed to be a part of the whole. While the 'special', the unique, those perceived as different are ostracised and abandoned to drift aimlessly upon an ocean of uncertainty.
I want to be somewhere else and if I cannot be then, I think about 'my' Angel sitting only a few seats ahead. Maybe if we were friends she could take me away to a better place, she could rescue me from my life. Is it so difficult for a man desperate to escape to imagine, to find another way to live, to break the shackles that most of us take for granted and see as the only way to exist.
As time ebbs and flows away, I feel myself slowly slipping unable or unwilling to continue across the length and breadth of a world-which does not care. Those cold mornings, the bus and the flash of blue, the train and the screech and grind. They both combine to add to my weariness. We all seem to march to the sound of the bus and the train and the sullen beggar who walks through whispering obscenities while smiling and nodding, entreating the passengers for money.
I begin to think about approaching her. It could be a kind of accident, a chance encounter, harmless, like in the movies. You know, she drops her bag, her mobile phone or even her hanky and without thinking, I quickly stoop to retrieve it as she does too, causing us to bump heads on the way up. Then we freeze and look at each other and begin to giggle. Slowly, we both come to realise that this is indeed an enchanting moment, a heavenly moment.
Although life is not like the movies I keep reminding myself but rather, people are more cynical, the world harsher, unforgiving, without the imaginary romance of yesteryear. Never mind, I still cannot help thinking this way because it makes me happy for such a short time and brings a smile to my face.
Each morning I steady myself because I know it may be the morning of my approach. I will say hello and see what happens. My whole being readies itself for that one chance. I practice over and over again in my mind, as an actor reading his lines. But how many different ways can you say the word 'hello', how many different postures can you use when saying the word 'hello'.
If life gives you one fleeting chance at happiness, what would you do? Perhaps like a maniac you would spring for it with everything you have. Nevertheless, sometimes the hands of fate, of your destiny, will not let you go so easily or not at all. They conspire against you.
Afraid that my tongue will betray me at the last moment I opt for another way. I decide to write something on a piece of paper and give it to her as I exit the train. I think about this approach and realise that if the fates are against me then I cannot rely on the physical attributes that they themselves have given. So, I take a square of yellowish paper, a sticky note and begin to think of a few words which best describe how I feel.
It takes me a long time to come up with the words, the appropriate words. I mean, what would you say to a complete stranger? Quite unexpectantly, the train enters the tunnel. I hold onto the tiny square with finger and thumb and wait like a soldier from the Great War, for that dreaded signal to go over the top. My heart is beginning to pound and I sense somewhat remarkably, that this moment could be my greatest.
Many thoughts run through my mind while I wait for the train to inch forward to a stop. I see only good things in the future, positively clearly, I can picture a life of love and children and my dreams fulfilled. All I have to do is hand her the note and all these things will become a reality.
Finally, I stand with the other people in unison as the train begins slowing down inside the tunnel. It is approaching Flagstaff Station. Instinctively, without orders my hand rises up to wipe the sweat from my brow. The same hand, which holds the little, posted note. I wipe my brow and my fingers unwind for a second or two letting go of the note. The train comes to a final stop with a jerk and the electronic doors are released with a 'swoosh'.
I madly look for the note as a great many passengers begin to fill the isle and march out like a colony of ants. I see the note a little way ahead, people are trod ding on it underfoot. I bend the knee to pick it up clasping once or twice like a snapping turtle between moving legs to retrieve it. I grab it, make quickly for the doors, and out onto the platform.
People throng together pushing and shoving to reach the escalators. I also fight but for a different reason. The crowd swallows up the girl, I move quickly with what I believe to be poise and a 'Giorgio Armani' look. Someone bumps me and I lose my swagger, the moment has past, I stand aside to allow the last of the passengers to climb the stairs.
I watch them all go stoically up the escalators one behind the other. While I stand there at the bottom until the very last person has gone, until I am alone. The only sound is the mechanical grind of the conveyor belt motoring the stairs up, around, under, over and back again.
The little yellow-posted note falls away and flutters onto the recently polished floor where it lays, I let it go, a bit of rubbish, a moment's madness, the hopes and dreams of a man. The girl on the train has disappeared up and out towards those ticket machines at the top. I am alone.
What is important I often wonder the act of trying and failing or not trying at all? I muse over these last thoughts with a pang of regret. What is life's journey about I often ask myself as I stand there for a moment or two. My heart needs to understand the answer as my mind conjures up ways to escape. Love and compassion, humility and humanity give way to ego, greed and a nastiness driving the notion of wealth, as the most important acquisition in life. I simply cannot understand how the world works sometimes. I take my eyes off the posted note, stand for another second or two, look up at the escalators, and then walk onto the conveyer belt with a grimace, work beckons.