02 April 2006

Train Life

I am early and see the scarlet bullet arrive. It slows and disgorges its load of people who were somewhere else and now are here. I take a seat by the window and rest my head back gently to watch as the carriage fills. Humanity boards, hurrying to meet deadlines and lovers.

The whistle shrieks and we roll. Bright steel rails bear the crushing weight of flesh and blood, a precious cargo of sinners and thieves. Our pasts recede with the flashing fields and a future rushes near through county and shire.

Now the train reaches cruising speed. We scorch through tiny stations that timetables forgot. 90mph yet still my retina burns with the brief image of a platform and a scallop-edged canopy, painted magenta and cream. A solitary man with a small brown case stands patiently awaiting his Brief Encounter.

My eye wanders the carriage, absorbing the faces, the hands and the shoes. A loud woman laughs and I gaze at her fat plain features. No one would look twice, I glance at her empty ring finger. A middle-aged businesswoman taps the keys of her notebook then stops and considers the ceiling. Satisfied with her ruminations she resumes tapping. No ring.

I don’t need to be here, I have no reason. Nothing is drawing me, nothing pushing or forcing but I chose to ride the train. Am I going out or coming home? I forget which.

A white-haired man in front is doing Sudoku, I can see through the gap in the seats he has two number sevens on one line and a plantation of nasal hair. His crumbling wife sees neither.

A pretty girl in jeans has stood alongside me, “May I?” she asks pointing to the seat beside me. “Sure.” I reply, shuffling closer to the window. She smiles back and opens her magazine to read about a lifestyle she would like. Over breakfast the same sweet smile had screamed at her boyfriend and told him to rot in hell. I turn away to look at the meadows and trees and happy cows.

We charge through an embankment that is littered with vintage Coca Cola cans, bleached under thirty summer suns. I see fluorescent jackets carrying black sacks, they pick litter with long sticks. Treasures tossed from rolling thunder.

Ahead I see him reach his lumpy rucksack from the rack, a man of slender stature carrying his depression in his father’s old luggage. His face is dry but his tears flow inside, I can tell. As he shuffles by under his crippling load our eyes meet and I nod. He grimaces back. He wears a ring.

We slow through marshalling yards and sidings. My phone vibrates and I withdraw it from my jeans, glance at the message and return it to my pocket. “Yes, I’m nearly there,” I think.

I have not spoken more than a single word to a single soul yet all about me there is chatter and life. Absently I pull the phone back out and switch it off. Now the green pastures are grey walls and white glass and I realise we have stopped. People are queuing in the aisle. Lives in motion, impatient.

“…if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space.” That familiar chiding voice whispers deep inside my head. The whistle shrieks again but I have stayed on the train. I missed my stop, so what!

A new view seeps in my window, new names and signs. New rails steer my present towards a precious future. I haven’t been this way before.


dAAve said...

been there too

Trudging said...

Good writing!

Cocaine Jesus said...

feels like deja vu (almost);)

excellent my friend, especially the sudoko bit but what about the stranger waiting at the other end? lol

Anna Piutti* said...

Great! I loved reading this.
I spend loads of time on trains, and can relate to the feelings you've expressed here.

boulies said...

Dear Bro Virgo, This is absolutely brilliant! Your writing has this amazing ablility to have a minimal quality in all of it's details. It's in the way you settle into an environment and document what you see in such and unassuming way; but in the details which pour out like a documentary, there are so many punch you in the gut sensations. In my humble opinion your witing has this modern, ethereal quality. It's interenting how you often bring machines and humans together, like " bright steel rails bear the crushing weight of flesh and blood, a precious cargo of sinners and theives". And I like the way you strip out sentiment when you talk of the pretty girl with the sweet smile coupled with your image of her screaming earlier at her boyfriend. Your observations of these people go deep within the human psyche. I appreciated also the humor of the mans "plantation of nasal hair". And I love the beautifully sad image of the man "carrying his depression in his father's old luggage". I could quote on and on. This whole piece is amazing. I love it. You've done it once again. Thank you!

sirreene said...

YES! it is Train Life and it is anything but a wreck ~ welcome back to writing PV, simply wonderful.

Perfect Virgo said...

dAAve - interesting view along the way I find...

Trudging - thanks for visiting.

CJ - don't go all Parisian on me! thought you would like the sudoku detail. There was an odd character who told me his name was Saatchi and the next minute he was gone, bizarre!

Anna - are Italian trains full of the same specimens of humanity? Do write about them if they are.

Boulies - baby sis you are writing some tremendous poetry. The power is up full and I am enjoying it. As to my own few words today this is a little something I rustled up on a recent journey. To be honest it wrote itself I just saw what I saw. You made a good point about man and machine - mechanical interaction with nature is bemusing.

I explore the inner reaches of my mind where no light shines so I see things in others that mirror me. Thanks for your support B.

Sirreene - gone but not forgotten I see. Thanks for keep stopping by to see if I am awake. I'm glad you liked the words they have been a long time coming but something triggered me to write.

Queen Neetee said...

This my dear brother is it! This surpasses what I have waited patiently for.

I totally agree with sis boulies. It's brilliant! It truly is.

A white-haired man in front is doing Sudoku Oh the games we play throughout life are but selfish entertainment even when we can play them only on paper.

... a man of slender stature carrying his depression in his father’s old luggage. This line is remarkable!

If you were a professional writer, I am sure that I would be your fan because you write what I see and feel. You write about the quite truths that sits still in souls when others are so near but too blind to see them. I will settle for reading your posts. I don't have to stand in line to get your books.

Once and, Brilliant!

Queen Neetee said...

oops! The last line should read:

Once again, brilliant!

Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - you are too kind. Nice to know I have a reader if I ever try to get anything published! But if my photo were on some bookstall I would cringe.

If something is worth doing (and it is always a BIG "if") I do it in depth and detail. Yes, even people-watching. Most people have lives that are as alien to our own as their very mannerisms. That's why I can't ignore them, call it compulsive curiosity!

ps. typos are always hilarious!

Cocaine Jesus said...

hairy typos?
must be hiding behind the saatchi gallery.

Queen Neetee said...

I forgot to tell you that the photo you displayed did make me a little uneasy.
I've been suffering from Verdigo, of and on for two weeks now.

It actually looks like you handed me the camera.

mussolini said...

how very cute :) it reminds me of a picture of people in a train here in manila, taken by another blogger: http://www.everdisturbed.com/manila/archives/000361.html

GEL said...

Stunning glimpse into everyday life when one observes and dreams! I'm mesmerized to the point that I couldn't comment each time I have read this. (I have marveled at it on several occasions, as your stats will reveal.)

I can hear the shared whispers wafting in lilac scented coziness. I can feel the electric vibrations of the mighty train and imagine each scene transformation. That is because of your writing gift! I can the mini-canvases you have expertly undraped before our eyes.

Congrats for being chosen "Blog of the Week" by Queen N. Well-deserved.

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - wherever the heck that is!

Neetee - I was torn between movement and static and plumped for the former to represent the speeding train. Sorry to have made you even queasier. I read you were poorly, please get well soon.

Mussolini - I checked the link and see what you mean. UK trains have forward facing seats on one side of the aisle and rear-facing on the other so I was mainly observing the latter.

SilvermOOn - yes, the counting man was watching and waiting! Perhaps I was a fly on the wall in a past life? You are very kind, I like that artistically you saw this as a series of mini canvases, eggs-actly how I intended...

Everyday life is so fascinating. People hardly realise they are giving gigantic flapping hand signals about their lives just by brushing away a hair.

I listened intently to those cosy whispers, eavesdropping like a spy on a mission taking the train to the big city.


Wow PV that was most excellent. I felt as if I was on the train with you.
I see you,

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - then I did my descriptive job. Thank you for reading as always.

finnegan said...

When did you become Brother Virgo? and Sister Neetee and Sister Boulies? I feel like I'm at a revival meeting, hehe. I guess your writing evokes such a spiritual air that even almighty Jesus' Cocaine gets blown away, so to speak. Achoo!

This one definitely has a "Lean" quality, however Briefly you Encountered your subjects. The photo excursions you've been going on seems to have got into your prose.

My eye wanders the carriage, absorbing the faces, the hands and the shoes.

Virgo, when I first read that line, I was distracted by the phone and could have sworn I'd just read: "...absorbing the feces with my hands and shoes".

boulies said...

Sweet Brother Virgo, Ha, ha, Finn is soooo funny. He missed out on the whole part where we became a family. See what happens if you're away too long....Thank you for the kind comment about the photo. I figured if we're all blood related now, the least I can do is give some hint of what I look like. I always hate my photos, so getting up the nerve to put something out there was a challenge. I'll be checking back soon. boulies

Patry Francis said...

Wow. Fabulous writing.

Perfect Virgo said...

Finn - haha priceless! Can you see us swaying in rhythm and clapping to the beat! Your cute cousins took pity and gathered me into their fold. Cocaine baby Jesus is in a club class of his own!

Filmic fantasy is everywhere I look. Call me 'eraserhead' on the soft 'blue velvet' of a 'lost highway.'

Fecal absorption is such a hilarious passtime to wile away a long train journey and guarantee a seat by yourself!

Boulies - he's like me, we were both away and missed our stops. I'm glad he's back now with his fecal funnies!

I am always touched by your keenly observed comments, your happy disposition and pictorial sartorial elegance.

Patry - thank you very much. Your own superb publishing achievements make your comment all the more gratifying.

boulies said...

I'm thinking people might miss out on your great photos and commentary if they don't scan down.


boulies said...


Perfect Virgo said...

Boulies - thank you very much for the plug. Don't worry about the typos, I may be perfect but I'm not THAT perfect!

finnegan said...

Baby Brit Brother Jesus has cast aspersions on you, my good Monkey Brother.

Go see what sort of poo flungeth upon thee in my comments box!

His Corny-ness suggests you look like a cross between a Marty Feldman and a Yeti. I rolled my eyes at that one, naturally.

I expect nothing less than a hirsute re-cross-dressing in retaliation!

YINNIG The opposite of YANNIG?

finnegan said...

Yuks aside, I needed to come back to this box car full of blues and gravel-voiced gravitas. (This piece is a prose poem that needs to be read with a slide-guitar vibrating in the background).

I feel really grateful that you are here on this earth singing these beautiful dirges.

Ok, now if you haven't done so already, go sharpen your quill and give Little Baby Jesus his first P.V. tattooing.

Perfect Virgo said...

Finn - your strong praise with its musical flavour is gratefully received - loud and clear. I may be posting far less but I intend to put heart and soul into it when I do.

The "Jesus of Suburbia" is a sidewalk prophet, an Allah on acid. Maybe I'll think of some witty parables for him and scratch them on tablets of stone.

superflywebpimp said...

pv, my old friend. great story, in fact, i'm still on that train, the blur of the oncoming rhododendrons, the witches broom spotted on jack pine, the strange structures go by, their secrets held tight like a mother holding onto her child navigating the muddy banks of a raging river. tunnel up ahead....a man approaches with eyes closed, "ticket sir."


GEL said...

Finn's clever comments are hilarious. I lost a lung from laughing, and then became even more derailed by the ensuing comment thread. I've long wondered if certain bloggers have signed in with creative names and on a blog that doesn't accept anonymous comments... What a fun group you all are! LOL "That's Entertainment!.

Still, as side-splitting as the comment thread is, it cannot compare to your writing, P. This piece mesmerizes me. "Heart and Soul" indeed! (I don't know if you are familiar with that very old song?)

When I first read this I noticed character changes that effortlessly appear as parts of the same man. It's as powerful as the "mighty engine's roar" plus more. "I Can See Clearly Now" oh "Solitary Man."
P.S. I sincerely hope your Brief Encounter is not of the "third kind." Go ahead beat me. I couldn't resist punning, while wondering whether the Brief Encounter will be a "Close Encounter."
P.P.S.Quiet now returns to your blog.

Perfect Virgo said...

Superfly good to see you. If I could be transported back to the age of steam I would use trains every day...

Still giving Black Beauty her head? You saw before that I was contemplating a new stallion myself. Well, I did it. Plenty of pretty yellow images (stationary) on the other site.

SilvermOOn - Finn is a real card! He burps out side-splitting expressions effortlessly. Me, I just burp.

Thank you for reading again, reading deeper and spotting my implication that 'we all see pieces of ourselves in others.' Mixing metaphors and juggling film titles is positively encouraged around here! I loved that old B&W Trevor Howard/Celia Johnson tear-jerker. The word poignant could have been invented just for it.

PS: Stevie Wonder after the rain makes a nice image. "Heart and Soul" has slipped me by until now so I Googled the lyrics and loved their beautiful simplicity.

PPS: Lonely waiting rooms, drafty platforms and clacketty-clack points all speak to me of missed opportunities, lost aspirations and things that might have been but for "signal failure." J'aime beaucoup le chemin de fer.

boulies said...

Thank you dear brother for commenting on Gena's blog. She really apprecitates the support and so do I. boulies

Perfect Virgo said...

Boulies - thank you for acknowledging little sis. My new niece is a credit to her mum.

Queen Neetee said...

BROTHER! Where art thou?
Just letting you know that you are being missed.

GEL said...

(You also belch quite well. The whole lot of you should be in a pun chorus.)

I was thinking of Johnny Nash, who I think wrote the song, but I'm not great at music trivia despite inhaling music on a daily basis. I didn't realize Stevie sang it, too.

P.S. Oh, my! I found a song you didn't know already. Guess what, neither did I until someone spointaneously sang it to me about 5 years ago during one of those shocking revelations....

P.P.S. Vous so kind pour using francais that je comprends avec ease. :)

GEL said...


Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - I have been in bed sick and lying low. The kind where you have no energy. Thank you for checking on me big sister ;-)

SilvermOOn - I eructate only in genteel company where it is appreciated, and then long and loud and rather tunefully!

PS: I am sure you are a musical encyclopaedia in your preferred genres, we all are to some degree. It's when we overlap that it becomes fascinating.

PPS: "...messy buckets!"

SilvermOOn - ablative accuracy rooted in Latin. Bravo!

finnegan said...

You want to hear side-splitting, here you go

Queen Neetee said...

I'm sooo sorry! I knew that something was wrong! Poor thing. You're an important voice of this community and not hearing a word from you just didn't feel right. Get better soon.

I understand though, I'm still reeling from vertigo and now there are complications because of the meds. Ahhhh! this is not me nor is it fun. I might have to end my school year early. I need the rest. I went out to garden a bit and ended up not feeling well at all. It's not good when I can't garden.

Once again, get better my bro, your voice is needed around here.

GEL said...

PB(yes, that key is still broken),
Although I hab been regularly called a Dictionary mouth, Encyclopedia brain, and likewise such affectionate monikers, I neber hab been scholarly in regard to music tribia. I recall a lot but mix up who sung what!

My body FEELS the music. AHHH. :) I'm bastly lacking in that area and if I dont hab this darn key fixed soon it's going to dribe THIS Birgo bananas!

P.S.So, I (try) to sing and enjoy it eben if laughed at (or with) and can dance decently (or indecently but no blog shows!)

P.P.S. In my neck of the woods, it's bastardized as mercybuckets or "mercy buttercups, which I may hab inbented years ago... or was it in a letter ("Please, Mister Postman" (yes American music) tell me.

P.P.P.S. Hope the sea air near where you reside has helped you feel much better!

transience said...

oh, that was good. i have a love affair with trains. except during rush hour.

Perfect Virgo said...

Finn - ha, thanks.

Neetee - thank you for your encouragement. I too like to spend time with the mower, the shredder and the blower. I don't feel much like playing with noisy garden toys right now.

SilvermOOn - a missing letter "V" can be berry perplexing! PB is an affectionate moniker and one I'll happily answer to.

With music as my life's soundtrack I absorb the details like a spongey sponge. more than enough for one person.

PS: Dance of the seBen Beils?
PPS: Penny Postage Stamps. "Hey, wait a minute Mr Postman..."
PPPS: Pretty Pulmonary Pebbled Seashore. Thank you.

Transience - Mercifully I can avoid the hour of rushing and take a seat by the window. Then I can choose to look out or in, life is in both places.

Anna Piutti* said...

"are Italian trains full of the same specimens of humanity? Do write about them if they are."

Yes, they are. Both buses and trains actually. I might write about them sometime.

Perfect Virgo said...

Anna - I look forward to reading your take on them.