I saw this earlier. The kind of suicide on the rail network that we are used to. That and someone telling me I should post some writing on my blog. So this:
Two cheers for the unidentified body currently lying on track twelve. A last trump in Paddington Station. Not exactly fairy land, though strangely enough it’s always held a fascination for me, too. The scene of a million arrivals and departures. What is one more?
I sense, in a way, a kindred soul. A man, or woman, for whom the vaudeville of a modern transportation system, a space where dirt lingers amid the plasma communiqués and polished steel, is somehow more pertinent than the spiral of suburban life. Someone who, tired of taking in other’s washing, has instead hung himself out to dry. Well, it’s a seller’s market.
The transgression here is not in taking a life, but in delaying the four-fifteen Great Western to Swansea. I stand, one of the milling mourners, our newspapers tucked under raincoated arms, our grande lattes in hand, ever glancing at the plasma screens. This service will not be calling at Didcot Parkway.
This planet, on which I perch, on which they perch, is the same planet inhabited by the Romans, Greeks, Mayans, Incas, and Egyptians. Everything alters in a never changing world. I have The Standard at my arm. I haven’t read it yet, a treat saved for the journey home, but I could tell you what it contains. Each of the meandering souls surrounding me could tell you, if they gave it a thought. None of them, I swear, give it a thought.
I am tired of standing up. A sedentary profession like mine, like yours I bet, has bred out of us all stamina for such a simple endeavour. We feel more comfortable cushioned, preferably in a chair that revolves at the slightest pressure from the sole of one foot or the other. My desk is close to the window, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like a view, though again, before I gaze my mind has it writ. It is, I say it again, all so obvious.
This man, or woman, has done us a favour. The act itself reversing the trivialization of a subject inherent in the absence of the thing itself, even if it is just the delay of the four-fifteen to Swansea. It is, I suppose, a matter of survival. On the savannah it doesn’t do to ponder on such things.
This favour, this rich gift, strikes where it is most valuable, and where it hurts most. I peel open a sachet of white refined sugar with my teeth. The contents, diamond crystals under the striplight glare, cascades half in, half out of the cardboard cup. I have no spoon. An index finger is scalded, sucked clean, and left to the chilled night air to dry.
These fellow travelers have been given time; time to themselves; time in a place of no escape, where there is, simply, nothing that can be done. It is excruciating. Within five minutes of the scheduled departure the hands-free wires appear. Hundreds of people turn for succor to a microwave powered, digitally enhanced, disembodied voice from home.
It is a human sacrifice, a soul given not to god, but to its fellow men. It is shot across the airwaves in a gigabyte of helplessness, in the smoke of a hundred Benson & Hedges, in the act of saliva on the greasy neo-plastic near-meat patties clutched in cold hands. It is in the air, on the gleaming tiles that echo a thousand steps; it is in the moment, this moment. It is everything.
It is a pause that ends. The broken body swept up by artisans as frustrated as we, as keen on retreat as we. It will be taken, chilled, cut with a knife, opened for inspection. But what it had has gone. We have it, had it, and we let it go.
On the train, at last, the carriage ceiling seems a little higher. There are, not so much smiles, more the even-mouthed triumphalism of escape, of a near miss. We have survived, and we owe the knowledge of that survival to the un-named, without whom this day, as any other, would pass by forgotten, in a speeding bullet of brandished light.
We settle in, comforted in post-ordeal spleandour. It is a rusty slumber, one we are all used to; never truly detached lest we stay too long; never truly alert, lest we become aware. As the miles rumble by, normalization resurrects itself. We are delivered from our terror.
It would take, well, another body, any body, to shake us once again. An announcement pierces our dreams: “Due to the late departure of this service, this train will be calling at Didcot Parkway”.