The hustle and bustle of everyday people, some walking left to right, whilst others right to left. Occasionally a rogue pedestrian would break the monotony of sideways travel and cut across in a diagonal path straight towards me. But them, much like the others, fail to notice me or the others around them, save for that split second movement so as to avoid collision.
They are consumed with their own agendas, rushing to wherever they are expected, at a pace that would suggest they should rise a little earlier in order to hasten a little less. I lost track of the number that blissfully walk with their eyes glued to their phones and those that disassociate themselves from their surroundings by listening to music.
There is never any conversation, save from those shouting to be heard above the sound of relentless traffic into their phones. Couples walk side by side, but they do not talk. It is as if their single goal is in reaching that final destination. I wonder if they would hasten towards where ever it is they are going if they knew it would be for the last time.
I’ve waited for an hour now, and save for some poor old man down on his luck approaching me for what loose change I had, nobody even noticed my existence. It was no surprise then that nobody noticed him either. There was an empty sadness within his eyes that told me he had already consigned himself to being ignored as his pleas would so often fall upon deaf ears. His grey wiry beard was long and unkempt and helped to mask the scars of both age and strife that adorned his leathery face. The aroma that emitted from, what could only be described as rags he wore was unpleasantly pungent and I couldn’t help but assume that this poor man had become so accustomed to it that he no longer noticed. Reaching into my pocket I pulled a handful of coins an offered to him. His icy cold calloused hands grabbed them as if they were water to a thirsty man and promptly tucked them from view within his ragged clothing before then moving to another to repeat his destitute pleas. I can’t help but sit here and think, “What a lonely existence this place offers.”
As time passes the hustle and bustle of this sprawling metropolis never falters. Busses follow those on foot in their directions of travel, though thankfully not straight towards me. It is evident that these are the kings and queens of the road, cutting across other traffic causing them to brake and give protestation via a sharp blast of their horn, whilst the former chase down the monotonous routine of their routed schedules. If buses rule, then cyclists are the pawns. Fragile amongst the throng of much larger vehicles, they dodge and weave in almost poetic artistry as they seek safe travel through the melee. I am sure many of these live a charmed life.
I am an hour and a half in, and I utter my first spoken words with a native of this foreign land. He pushes a cart and brush, lifting litter that falls carefree from those that pass him. Despite the early hour, he looked tired and weary as if he had been already up for some several hours carrying out his mundane toils. His eyes I had seen the likes of before, full of an empty sadness. His shoulders were slumped in a manner to match his demeanour as if the weight of the world bore down upon his back, and his feet shuffled as if he lacked the desire or strength to lift them. He doesn’t ask me if a newspaper beside me is mine, but assumes not, putting it in his cart. It wasn’t, but still I thanked him for his tireless efforts in keeping the place litter free. His eyes gave me nothing, nor did his lips offer a smile of thankfulness as he continued with his tedium. If there was a positive to be found within this urban expanse, it was that it was clean.
The sun is beginning to rise now, lifting herself above the towering buildings making the whole place seem somewhat claustrophobic. As I begin to feel her heat, I get the first real sense of the day ahead. Unlike those that hustle and bustle, my agenda is more tranquil and haphazard. I am comforted by the fact that I am but merely a tourist within this maddening world as I prepare myself for entering the cacophony of mayhem that is the underground. An interconnecting rabbit warren of train tracked tunnels that crisscross beneath the urban chaos above. If claustrophobia was surfacing sat within the caged heat of the towering city, then it began to boil over as the air below became stagnant and the warmth intensified. Escalators carried me deeper into the depths of my own personal hell, whilst others desperately ignored the automatic movement in favour of running towards damnation. A monotone voice calls from oblivion warning of the impending arrival of a new train, stirring panic in those around me as they are herded like sheep towards this mechanical pen. Then in like sardines they cram, as if their very survival depended upon being on the other side of those closing doors. Moments later and they’re gone, carried away into the darkness of the opposite tunnel from where their carriage arrived.
Putting my back against the wall of the platform, as my personal space is being constantly violated by those jockeying for prime position as to where they believe the doors of the next arriving train will stop, I find a certain amount of reassurance from the cold immovable surface. There was no destination I needed to arrive at, that would warrant me putting myself through the ordeal those around me so willingly undertook. Once again the monotone voice hails from nowhere the impending arrival of another train. Once more the sardines ready themselves.
It was after the second train had pulled away, when most of the platform had cleared subjecting themselves to the work bound migration, that I noticed him. Feet wrapped in shoes that were so highly polished that the florescent lighting shined upon them, stood tantalisingly close to the scuffed yellow line that stretched the length of the platform. The rest of him was adorned in an immaculately pressed dark grey suit, a pristine white shirt and dark purple tie. He clutched within this left hand the handle of the sturdy looking briefcase that hung by his side, his right a mobile phone that was strangely no against his ear or the focus of his attentions. Instead his gaze appeared to be focused upon the advertising on the far side tunnel wall. Well groomed and lacking in any discernible features, had it not been for his placement upon the platform and permanent forward vacant stare, and then shamefully I admit he would not have caught my attention, much in the way he had been ignored by those that once stood around him.
For a third time the monotone voice broke the silence as more people hurried to swarm upon the platform and take their positions so precious to them. My back pressed firmly against the wall, I strained to keep my focus upon the man that had drawn my attention. Momentarily I lost sight of him as the train screamed alongside the platform and screams of despair cried out from all around me. Each one had become ghostly white, as they averted their tear filled eyes from the horrific sight they were not given an option in viewing. Some broke down as other comforted them, others ran back from where they had been, too traumatised from that which they had seen. As I edged along the wall, fearing to remove myself from its sanctuary, that was when I saw him again. He was breathing heavily consumed with shock. His phone and case lay discarded by his side. As I gazed at his shaken disposition, I noticed his gaze no longer stared straight forward but towards the tracks immediately in front of the train, at the crushed remains of a body that looked disturbingly familiar, a body that once belonged to me.
Flashbacks coursed through my mind as visions of my demise were presented to me. I had foreseen the intentions of the man to step in front of the incoming train, intentions that were oblivious to others. In a moment of rash determination I ran towards him with the intent of foiling his suicidal plan, and my hand touched his shoulder for the briefest of moments. A misplaced step however, brought my gallant deed to a premature end as it was I that met with the oncoming train. My body lay lifeless upon the tracks of an underground station, my soul terrified pressed against the side of the station wall.