I find myself standing at the entrance of train carriage – number 9111 again – as strangers exit onto the concrete station. There's my reflection in the train window – refocusing, trying to see the other reality that's on the other side of browning glass. Any seats left? Maybe I'm looking straight at someone inside the carriage without knowing. It's probably making them uncomfortable. Better look away.
They are still walking out of the carriage – how many people can fit on a train? Finally, boarding. Station master's whistle – aren't they gonna wait? Crowding on, pushing, watch the gap (that girl who lost her shoe down the gap and had to wait till the train left to get it back) – another whistle. Shuffling along flattened dotted carpet.
A frail lady at the base of the stairs – please, please – Damn. Took the one-seater. Surrendering down the stairs – eyes watch me, any free seats? The guy that gets off at the next station, a group of flamboyant twenty-something-year-olds. Wonder if it's the dreadlocks, the piercings or the pentacles that makes them feel like they are being rebellious. Shouldn't they be past that stage? Dad always said I should get dreadlocks – always mixed them up with plaits. Wish I could remember Nimbin better. I have a pentacle at home, in a purple box with stars, on my jewellery desk. Got no piercings though.
Thank God, window seat.
Book? Damn, next to my bed. Tour of the train-tracks then.
Behind factories, parked cars (never see any people), rubbish, weeds, clouds in the river. Ducks, swamp hens. Swimming there with Liz – went fishing with just string and bait. Braking – funny how you feel the corners more when you're going slower. We've stopped. Feet mill around outside my window. Behind or in front of the yellow line?
Briefcases enter, take their professional seats. Speakers blare – cringe – can't these train drivers learn how to speak English? We pull away as a mobile rings. No mate, I told yeh not ta bloody drop it off, what the hell were ya thinkin'? Aw, you prick, I told yeh fifty times! I'm not payen, you can spend twice the friggen' money to get anothuh one. I'm not. No, I'm not payen for it!
Collective ignorance. Next station. A young woman sits reluctantly next to me (we are a frigid bunch), pulls out some complicated notes. Looking over – something about psychology. Wonder what her name is. Why are names so important? Forget too many of them. Wonder where she is going? Does she own her own home, got a job, have a brother, play the clarinet, speak French? So much in each person. What about that balding man in front –
Tunnel. Bogan lost his reception, seems confused why he was cut off. Teenagers check their reflections. Stray hairs everywhere, tucked behind ears. Back into daylight. Hurtling through bush – there's a river at the bottom of that slope. A lookout on the hill on the other side. Mount Portal? Like to go there.
Come out past a valley. Trips to Sydney when I was 6, I'd take photos of this view. Once I caught a train with my grandparents (they didn't like travelling backwards). Through the window, there was another girl on another train – tried to make friends with her. She got bored before long. Learning to spell 'relationships'. Still learning.
Almost my stop. Building estates getting swollen with oversized houses without backyards. Bloody urbanisation. Rows of multicoloured cars. People getting up to leave, mid-sentence. Admitting to my legs, walking over dotted carpet again. Twelve bodies jerk back eastward where they came from, ready for it. And out, through a crowd trying to peer through brown to another reality, hoping there's a place for them. Along with the rush, flowing up the stairs, and the freedom draws away again, this time without me.
Down stairs now, across the road – I never know whether to thank the cars who stopped for me. Compromise by walking fast to keep them from waiting. Stepping into the bus – accepted, dismissed.
This is more dynamic, ambiguous. Watching the driver to make sure he follows the rules, watching pedestrians. Hurry up and change gears – mind the car on the roundabout. Must be hard to drive one of these roaring monsters. Looking down, ink on my hands, forearms. Reminders – must go to the library tomorrow. The Five Stages of Grief – it's an interesting concept, for an artwork – really need to explore more ideas for my artwork. Really need to do a lot of things.
Unlucky today – this driver won't go the extra loop past my house. Have to walk instead. Last passenger off, as usual. Walk down the aisle, trying not to hold onto the handles (surely I'd be capable of balancing by now).
There you go, lassie.
Thankyou very much!
See yeh later.
Bye (once I said Cheers).
Back to primitive transportation again. Nicer walking along grass – no footpaths here. Crush, crush, crush, back into rhythm. The two little black pugs start barking from behind a gate. Hello, haven't seen you in a while. Electric wires above hold angelic wattle birds – are they watching over me? Cross a street, there are people on their lawn ahead. They haven't seen me, should I cross onto the other side of the road? Why this anxiety of people? What happened to communities, neighbours? Keep going and just smile.
It's a family. Mother and grandmother leaning against the just-parked car; father laughing, standing on the fine grass; two children, rolling around, playing. A baby boy. A young kindergarten girl, still in her school uniform. Not from the local school. Local school's dropping in numbers. Why shouldn't she go there? Almost a betrayal. Smile, its nice to see happiness. I believe it. There's the sky, and the foliage, and the sunshine, and the flowers on the other side of the road.
Daddy, do you see the school girl? Do you see her Daddy, do you see the school girl?
Yes, sweetie, I can see her.
Smile's vanished. It's the excessively large bag thumping against my back. Is that all I am? School girl. Of course I'm more. Am I? Well, of course. I'm part of this place, this road. I'm capricious cartwheels (we'll never be here again, that's what we said), and the birds on the wires, photographs. I have a name, a family. I am memories, I am reminders written on my hands, I make up part of this world. Ignorant child. Surely I'm more than what she judges me as?
I find myself, abdicating into the gardenia-growth on the other side of the road. After all, Acceptance is the hardest stage.