Heavy rain soaked the tracks and parts of the platform that weren’t under cover. I stood waiting for the 8:30am train. Around me a phalanx of other commuters who, like me, stood silently cursing the downpour. A chime followed by an announcement, echoed throughtout the station informing the waiting throngs that the train was arriving. I shuffled forward to the edge of the platform as the train came to a stop, the doors hissing open. I, together with a plethora of others, clambered into the train. All the seats were occupied so I stood by a window. I gazed out at the grey rain swept city of Osaka, watching mothers with children fight against the wind that ripped at their umbrellas and the rain that spat at their bodies. I watched vehicles of every shape and size, line the highway, waiting for a light to turn green. The homeless in the small parks, that flash passed the window, sheltering under blue vinyl sheets or in the empty toilet blocks – their personal belongs piled up beside them. As I gazed at these hopeless individuals, a ting of guilt swept over me. I brushed it aside, telling myself -They chose to live that way.
The train pulled into the next station. Some of the commuters disembarked while even more embarked. Again the doors made their familar hiss and we were rolling again. As we neared the city the train entered the underground and transformed itself into a subway. Lights automatically flicked on and my window became a mirror. Gone were the sights and sounds of a rainy city, replaced by cold grey concrete walls and the echos of steel on steel. I looked at my window – now a mirror – and like Alice through the looking-glass I could see those standing and sitting around me. To my left an old man in a thick blue ski jacket, slept with his mouth open oblivious to the people who stared. On my right a young couple, secretly holding hands under a newspaper spread across both laps. They talked in whispers and I tried to imagine what either was saying. Directly behind me, leaning against the opposite doors, was a young man dressed in a military jacket and jeans, Ear-rings and other trinkets adorned his person. He was engrossed in a comic book, the title of which was, ‘Jump’.
The trained pulled into another station. Many filed off and a few seats became vacant – I chose to stand, enjoying the view through my ‘mirror’. The train was soon crowded again. The same looks on different faces. I watched and smiled as the sleeping old man woke, seeming disoriented and scratching at his long, scruffy silver hair. After a few minutes, he stood and waddled across the train car to the subway map, screwed to the wall. His grubby fingers traced the line as he tried to get his bearings. Again the train came to a halt at another station and like before, many got off. The old man included. With another hiss from the doors, we thundered off into the dark tunnel. I continued to watch the people around me. Studying their movements, picking up tid-bits of conversation, noticing their fashion and putting names to their faces. A young couple stood right behind me, arguing in low tones but easily heard.
“I told you she was just a friend,” he said, his voice just above a whisper,”we just went out for a few drinks.”
“Just a friend? You were out all night with her,” came the curt response from a girl wearing so much eye make-up she resembled a panda.
He then rolled his eyes and although he was quiet, I imagined he was thinking. He moved closer to her wondering, I suspect, whether others could hear their conversation – little did he know.
“Don’t you trust me?” he asked in a soft soothing tone, “because if we don’t have trust then we have nothing.”
Beautiful! This guy was good. He was indeed in the process of switching the guilt. It was at this point that I knew the guy had in fact, had sex with this mystery girl. ‘Panda’, turned her head and gazed upon him. Through my looking-glass I could see tears welt in the dark recesses of her eyes.
“I didn’t say I didn’t trust you. All I wanted to know is why you had to go out all night with her.”
He shrugged – an action men do when they think they’ve won an argument but don’t want to continue for fear of saying something dumb and getting themselves back in hot water.
“Look when we get home, I’ll make it up to you…OK?”
She smiled a little, coyness dancing on her face, “How will you make it up to me?”
“You’ll see”, he said, “you’ll see.”
I dropped my vision down and saw they both had entwined fingers.
When the train stopped again, Panda and boyfriend stepped off the train.