Life all around us

Welcome to Urban poems. Real life. Real words. Poetic flow.

20 July, 2007

Stories on the Underground

An urban shortie

Due to a person under a train at Green Park, there are severe delays on the Jubliee Line. Customers are advised to take the Metropolitan line and change where necessary. London Underground wishes to apologies for the disruption caused to your journey this morning”.
A general groan filtered through the crowd on the platform at Dollis Hill. By now it was three deep and stretched to the far end of the station. At eight thirty in the morning the Jubilee line was already a heaving mass of sour flesh. The third consecutive day of cold British rain only ensured that the journey was yet again, unbearable. When a tube finally materialised, the rain had created sodden coats that breathed their unwashed odour into the cramped carriages. The staleness clung to the air, evaporating any surplus oxygen. Sacha couldn’t understand why so many people had to smell that nauseating so early in the morning. She rationalised that soap was cheap and water almost free, so there really was no excuse.

Under normal circumstances, a tube this full would be crawling its way to Bond Street without her. However as she was already late, the struggle of make a living in London had to start at Wembley Park. The interview at the London Mayor’s office in [Waterloo] as a communications researcher was in less then fifty minutes times. Sacha had hoped to use the travelling time to write down a few intelligent questions to ask her interviewer. But with someone else’s armpit against her nose and Miss Two Bags hitting her in the ribs from one angle and the buttocks from the other, chances of even surviving, much less writing, where slim to none.

Her thoughts had wondered to the “person under a train”. How desperate do you have to be to jump in front of train first thing on a Monday morning? That’s taking a cry for help a step too far. Must have been a rough weekend. Unless they were pushed. Maybe the platform was full and they were too close to the yellow line. Perhaps they stepped back to put some distance between them and the on coming train. Mashed a foot. Got shoved. It’s over. Tube rage was a real thing. And by Willesden Green, Sacha could fully understand how tube rage came about, as she would gladly have treated Miss Two Bags to 1000 volts of live rail track. Miss Two Bags had chosen the rush hour to transport three weeks worth of gym clothes, avec towels, shower sundries and Nike cross-trainers, in a large bright red rucksack. The other bag, a fair-sized, black rectangular handbag, with silver-tipped corners, carried all the usual paraphernalia. With both straps of the burdensome rucksack slung over her left shoulder, and the handbag balancing on her right, Miss Two Bags performed a convincing impersonation of “The Little Donkey” on the rocky road to Bethlehem.

Now in all fairness to Sacha, who was immaculately dressed in business attire, and trying to remain composed for her interview, she did make it all the way to Swiss Cottage before finally losing the power of self-restraint. Miss Two Bags gave Sacha a mighty blow in the back while trying to muscle more room for her own personal comfort. “Ooow! Jesus woman! Are you blind or am I invisible”? Sacha’s voice was loud enough for people towards the far end of the carriage to hear. Newspaper’s rustled as the seated chosen few, discretely lowered them to observe the fracas amongst the standing cattle class. “Sorry!!” said Miss T.B sarcastically, tossing her blond hair in Sacha’s face, “I didn’t realise you were so close”, she hissed. Sacha was outraged at this woman’s lack of remorse for almost paralysing her from the waist down. And although she normally carried her self as a consummate professional, this morning she unleashed the ‘rude girl’ in her and was ready to salt and pepper Miss Goddamn Two Bags. “S’what? Am I not black enough and big enough for you to see me? Listen! Tek your handbag out of my backside, before I find a permanent place for you to stick it!” she warned.

Silence fell on the whole carriage. All eyes where on Sacha and Miss Two Bags. The man with the sweaty armpits gently released his grip on the yellow ceiling rail and turned his body away from the commotion, obviously not wanting to be the next in the line of fire. A few opened mouthed people shamelessly stared at Sacha, while others darted their eyes between the two women wondering if there was going to be a come back from the blonde lady. For that moment, it seemed as if Swiss Cottage station had turned the volume down on the train noises, and pumped the volume up on the silence. The musty clothes smell grew stronger as the motionless train was drained of the remaining stale air that had been circulating. The carriage was caught in suspended animation. Sacha eyed Miss Two Bags with a stern glare. Miss Two Bags glared back, contemplating a response while calculating how many stops she had before she could safely escape this scene. Then the tube doors gave their warning beeps as they steadily closed trapping her in the carriage until at least the next station.

Miss Two Bags thought better of challenging this angry black woman. Safety in numbers was not a practiced concept in London. The fact that the train was bulging with people didn’t actually guarantee your personal security. Besides she had heard how violent these yardie types could be. So instead of continuing the stand off, Miss Two Bags just tutted a weak disapproval as her only response to Sacha’s warning. Sacha, adrenaline pumping, and wishing she had kept her big mouth shut, was glad that Miss T.B had not taken it any further. The odds were against her. There were too many white people to come to the defence of the helpless weightlifter blonde, who was obviously under threat against her, the black sister with an attitude. However, to save face and through genuine annoyance, she kissed her teeth in a manner that would have made her mother ask her if she was trying to “draw me tru’ dem”.

The tube moved off slowly and Sacha silently prayed that it wouldn’t stop suddenly and send her flying into her opponent. The other tube passengers resumed their previous poses. In a seat, diagonal to the dispute a young black man smiled in Sacha’s direction, with a touch of admiration for her courage, and hint of attraction at her style. Sacha noticed him, but was too embarrassed to acknowledge his subtle support.
By Deborah Harper, © 2004

1 comment:

Oria said...

Great work.