Interesting and tired faces appear during the train’s night time commute

It’s like a black and white movie, standing there on the platform in the chilled night air. A few dark figures lie and wait for the metal carriages to come hurtling down the tracks. A couple sits huddled together on a beat up wooden bench, illuminated by a yellow ball of light. On the dimly lit platform, it’s very picturesque, yet lonely.

 Standing there encompassed by the graffitied walls and scratched up windows, the station feels worn down just like many of the tired faces that pass through its doors each night. Commuters drag their tired bodies towards the train doors, heavy bags under their eyes and a longing for sleep.

But tonight is different, quiet and cold. Seems as if the entire city is already at home, clambered into their warm beds and ready for sleep. You look up at the glowing orange characters on the screen above the platform- 7:49pm, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 but it feels much later with no one around. Deserted, dead and hollow.

You scuff your shoes, toes hitting the rough concrete floor of the platform – waiting can be so tedious on cold nights. But the small repetitive movement keeps you busy as you swing your foot back and forth, kicking the round bits of gravel scattered around you.

The loneliness makes you tired, the burnt out platform lights don’t help either. You lift your head slightly as you get a waft of the sweet tobacco smoke slowly rising into the air from the young man at the end of the platform. He looks tired, much like you, except he’s different – more worn, his clothes drenched in concrete dust and grease from a long day on site. His boots, once new, now rugged and torn from the thousands of steps he has taken. He couldn’t be more than 25, but the creases on his forehead and rough sun-worn skin have added many years to his once boyish face. You watch him silently, entranced by the small embers glowing as he inhales, something hypnotic about it and yet sad.

The 34-year-old platform stands unshaken by the howling gusts of wind. It’s almost as if it’s plain brick form has become part of Heritage Drive. A faded brown mountain, slowly corroding away from the mischievous scratchings of young teenagers. An overwhelming sadness looms over the building, its hollow veins cold from the lack of night time commuters.

Straining your ears, you can just hear the rumble coming closer as the train comes speeding down the tracks. The bells of the gates start to sound as the train approaches but only a lone car comes to stop at them. A big gust of wind blows your hair in a whirl as the train’s gears struggle to come to a stop. But with a loud screech and a jerk, it stops and the doors open, inviting you into the warmth of the carriage.

You hurry inside, your skin tingles as the heat hits it. Pausing as your eyes adjust to the bright white fluorescent beams, you search for a seat. That’s when you smell it – the stench of stale breath and cheap liquor. You scurry to get a seat away from the smell, stumbling as the carriage jolts to catch up with the speeding train cars pulling it along. Last row, against the window, right next to the accessibility doors in the middle of the train, it’s safe here, with your back up against the plexiglass.

With your hands in your coat pocket, you feel around for the small pair of earphones tangled in the corner. Stuffing them in your ears, you press play and the music floods your head, and that’s when you look up. He’s saying something to you, his face is worn and his hair unkept. It looks like he hasn’t shaved the thick grey and white strands covering the lower half of his face in over a month. You look away and pretend to stare aimlessly out the window but you can still see his reflection. He’s angry now. He’s shouting, and the smell of Alberta Premium pools your nostrils. He looks like a whiskey drinker. That’s one way to spend a sunday. Drunk. But he’s just embarrassing himself, harassing you, and yet still no one is really paying attention.

“I’m sick of you kids with your smart phones.” he’s slurring. “You never look up and see what’s around you. wake up!”

He looks deranged and he’s obviously out of his mind but, he’s right. And yet, you did see him. You paid attention, he just doesn’t know it. The train comes to a startling halt and wakes you from your thoughts. You realise it’s your stop and hurry to get to the doors and he’s still rambling on, his words chasing you as you step over the threshold. And the doors close, cutting him off and putting you back on a concrete platform.

ljohn@cjournal.ca

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