This is my dear friend James Wilson. This is what the train-man looked like except more Indian/clothed.

There’s something about train travel that skewers me. It is the place where I am most constantly surprised by the flush of humanity.

I spent most of this morning’s commute eyeing a very handsome, very smartly dressed Indian man who was leaning against one of the mid-carriage poles like a Calvin-Klein-underwear model. I presumed he would be launching himself at Martin Place due to his charcoal suit and sharp-white-shirt (isn’t it amazing how we make meaning so quickly, so meaninglessly? Suit jacket and shirt? Business. Suit jacket and pithy T-shirt? Advertising) and, indeed, he began to stir as we drew into the station. It wasn’t until the doors were beeping open that I chanced to look down at his feet.

Surely we’ve hit humanity’s peak with these.

He was wearing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes. “The main characteristic of this extraordinary shoe [is] the sole with five fingers made of Vibram® rubber, which, as a flexible glove, helps the natural articulation of the foot stimulating muscles of the lower limbs and therefore gives a higher sense of well-being to the whole body.” They forgot to add that it makes you look like a human/frog hybrid. The intense train-attraction that had been building since Redfern vanished in a shock-cloud. My Calvin Klein businessman was in fact a walking amphibian.

Frog-man was preceded in the train-trip by a gaggle of old women who were heading for Town Hall. Although I don’t think ‘gaggle’ does this group justice (the allusion to geese is a little too patronising for comfort). Trawling through the list of collective nouns (is it even possible to have a rabble of butterflies? All I can picture is a group of young boys pulling their wings apart) I still cannot place the right word. I’ll put it on my to-do list.

These women all must have been post-75. The extraordinary thing was the way in which they helped each other negotiate the still moving carriage versus their arthritic balance. Not once did their hands leave a supporting arm/pole. They helped each other along, heaved each other up the stairs and onto the platform. It was as though someone, pre-dawn, had strung a life-line through the carriage which was only visible to these beautiful old hands. They all grasped the same rope with their swollen knuckles and loose-ringed fingers.

None of them were beaten down in this same way but I think they would all have sought plum-solace at some point in their more recent years.

To a Poor Old Woman
munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand
They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her
You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

William Carlos Williams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s