'Waiting' by Van Demal


These are places of misery: platforms, stations, bus stops, waiting rooms. They are portraits of despair.
  We are stranded here.
  The disembodied drone of the conductor tells us that we are waiting for another train to join us; that we can’t move on until the other half arrives. Darkness crowds the edges of the platform, the sky above the awning pressing down like a flat black lid. Beneath the canopy drifts of somnolent passengers remain. Flickering strip-lights bleach the shadows away. They hum incessantly, the insistent optimism of a madman in their tone. Here and there a moth circles, its lilting flight repeatedly deflected by the long bulbs. The unending assault wearies every watcher’s eye. The lights make the people look pale, spectral, enervated. They linger, alone or in small groups, each in pristine isolation. We are momentarily set aside from life. People wince and grimace, stamp their feet, shiver. I can perceive the tide of chilly air as it washes along the platform opposite, each face stretching in turn, like a joke told from one to another. But these are not smiles.
  Towards the end of the platform I can see a couple. Although they stand together there is an ocean of distance between them. Inevitability hangs palpably in the air around them. They are immobile, though no doubt their minds race and their hearts beat fiercely; a vision syncopated by the counterpoint rhythm of wheels on steel rails.
  You can see from the look on her face that she has already left, her mind focused on plans made, her head shifting a little to steal some perspective as she peers along the tracks into the darkness, shoulders squared against whatever may come. His dreaming eyes look back to yesterday, his frame slumped beneath the weight of their history, willing this moment to delay, to never arrive. His head hangs slightly and he looks away from her, across the track to a waiting train, not wanting to see departure already written in her face.

Heads turn as the tracks begin to hum and sing, eyes squinting at the blackness beyond the turn, waiting for a light to appear. Some people take a step back, inured to the daily repetition, aware of the inexorable approach. The train speeds through the station. The rush of wind buffets surprised faces on the platform, smacks against our windows with a boom, sweeps away leaves and left papers, drags the dizzy moths into its slipstream.
  But it fails to shift the melancholy tide. It retreats, stretches away behind the receding carriages, only to rebound on us like an echo, deepening the sense of inertia as it returns. I look at the people around me in the carriage, settling back into their seats after the disturbance, recovering their equilibrium, once more acceding to the boundaries of their existence. We are all weighed down with expectation, waiting for something to happen. We’re waiting for that jolt, for the connection. We’re all just waiting for a connection.

Comments

  1. This is very good Van. Excellent description of both the moth and of waiting.

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  2. Beautiful writing Van. Helena

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  3. Perfectly evocative of that awful limbo trains seem to generate quite uniquely. At least the moth gets a bit of slipstream entertainment!

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  4. There's a beautiful bleakness to this, and the use of language draws me in from the start.

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