“It’s going to be an amazing day and you will be great.” I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself in my head this morning, resembling the chanting of prayers I reluctantly listen to as I dress myself. Looking from the mirror as I comb my hair, I see my unarranged bed pleadingly inviting to rest my body and embrace the cool pillows. I quicken my pace to remove temptation and to keep up with the ticking of the clock. A kiss on the cheek, a wave goodbye, and after several ear scratches to Monty I head out the door.
The weather outside is gloomy and cold, and the sky isn’t vibrant with the shades of yellow and pink which can be usually seen by 6 O’clock in the morning. The air smells of wet grass: the smell of rain, and a cool breeze gushes past me rustling the leaves, cooling my skin. I wonder how heavenly it would feel to be curled up in pajamas drinking hot coffee in this weather and not having to go anywhere. Though the atmosphere is lethargic, the trees and flowers are bright with colour as if someone had increased the saturation overnight. Walking past puddles of water, I resist the urge to jump in as I used to when I was smaller; mostly to see the shock in people’s faces than for the sheer joy you gain from jumping in and splashing water. Nobody in their right mind likes walking around in wet socks. Not even me. At least not this early.
As I stroll over to the main road I hear the clanking of the signal announcing the arrival of the train. Without a second thought, I run as fast as I can to the station. Reaching the platform I sigh in relief as I see the first glance of the train as it takes the bend, elegantly gliding towards the station getting larger and larger with each second. The floor shudders and the metal creaks and wails and the door of the carriage stops in front. Making way for others I get in last, taking one last look at the station and the suburb that’s slowly waking and the train moves forward.
I miss my comrade who accompanies me in these daily journeys to the university we both attend. I enjoy and look forward to his companionship every day. I love how he holds me from my waist to keep me from falling, giving no care to the disapproving looks from the surrounding passengers. My kind of person. Even the thought of his presence feels safe and warm. But now when I look around, I remember I am alone and I feel miserable and unprotected. In an attempt to feel brave, I straighten my back and stand up tall and look directly with a frown on my face at each face that seem to scan me, sizing me up. The gazes avert or pretend to drowse and I look out the window with music in my ears that match and helps me keep up my façade.
The inside of the train is damp and dirty and the floor is slippery, patterned with muddy shoeprints. To escape the stench and to feel the fresh wind on my face, I move closer to the door. I feel a smile spread across my face at the thought of how Amma’s face would shrivel with worry if she were to see where I’m standing now. Outside, the train bludgeons forward through deserted foggy moors and recently sown paddy fields; past cities that are now bustling with vehicles and past slums in which their occupants are mopping out the water from yesterday’s downpour. Inside, people from different walks of life have come together grudgingly and unknowingly, for a brief moment in time like a still photograph from an album that reflects
society as a whole. I take note of the usual and familiar faces and try to wonder how they as I, fit in, in this big picture.
The deaf and or mute couple to the far right are signing to each other gazing into each other’s eyes, faces lit with smiles, deeply in love. A new mother is dozing off with her baby in her arms next to me. Several school boys stand at the opposite door, peering out hanging dangerously from the hand bar next to the door. The majority of the passengers who are seated, are asleep, and the ones standing look as if they wish they were the ones seated. With each passing station, the more the carriage gets crowded, most faces tired and weary. A group of people behind me are talking about anything and everything to keep themselves occupied. The extrovert of the group is expressing his view on politics for the whole carriage to hear. I go back to looking out the door. It feels daunting when you realize that the next decades of your life is going to be dominated by travelling to and fro between work and home.
As I inhale the smell of salt and look out into the deep blue sea, with ships freckled as dots on the horizon I try to memorize this view in my mind. The sea looks so blue and calm against the silver sky separated from land by a border of rocks. I’ve heard that after death, all memories playback in a dream sequence for the next seven minutes. If this were true, would this be one of those memories? I try and try to remember my earliest memory but nothing comes to mind before the memory of me tripping when I was in Montessori. I was always a clumsy kid, even back then.
The train leaves behind the coast and heads on back to land. With the last glimpse of the sea I dream of buying a house near the beach someday. Possibly with shear curtains that fly in the wind, and the garden dominated with frangipani trees with white beautiful flowers. My comrade as my partner, and two or three dogs. The roof covered with a bougainvillea vine.
Dampening my dreams, and bringing me back to reality, it starts to rain. Why couldn’t I remind myself to bring an umbrella? So typical of me. The train draws closer and closer to my stop. I ready my belongings to quickly hop out of the train and run fast to a shelter. The train slows down and comes to a standstill and I run like I’ve never ran before. The rain drenches me from head to toe and I’m running out of breath. It’s hard to run with a heavy bag on your back. The engine hums and the train starts to leave and I trip and fall.
I pull the box of toys from the bottom shelf, and start arranging them in a line sorting them according to colour.
Written by Tasha Goonewardene
Illustration by DRG