Thursday, 20 August 2009


I am on the tube. A woman rushes in as the door is about to close. Though it's packed the layers part as she comes through not exactly walking but escalating forward or drifting on the current of a younger woman's stride. Yet there is a crankinness in her bones and in the way she stops as if she could go no further as a seated passenger is literally upturned from their seating, mumbling an invitation as a back-hander to the woman who sits down earnestly. She arranges her dress around her body, staking the boundaries of that small body as she does so. Yet she seems to be escaping from that spot, somewhere mid-air in the already stuffy corridor of that carriage.
She has oriental features, her grey hair swept back loosely from a scrubbed face. Something in her chest seems to be heaving, building up to something that has yet to emerge as if caught or battling in some way. There is a tension around her because the passengers do not know what this turbulant state may amount to. I am sitting opposite her focusing on the floral patterns of that dress. She wears a silver chain draped and fastened loosely around her waistline where the dress seems to be cut in two and sewn back again so that the floral pattern does not follow on exactly but seems to jump. I feel the focus of my two eyes seperate and mesh again at a slightly forced pace, as if each followed a different momentum. There is the stirrings of a halucination.

I`ve noticed from the beginning but now am made more aware of the black mitten over the woman's right hand, bobbbling from wear. On this already hot day in the stuffiness of the train carriage, it is at odds with the necessities of dress and with the generally summer outfits of all, including the woman, on that train. The woman begins hitting this hand with her other hand, thumping it over and over in a persistant rhythm that never lets up as she parts her hands above her bony chest and then returns them to this brief grip as in a seizure. It is like watching a boxer warm up before a fight. Gradually she turns her gloved hand so that the point of impact changes from moment to moment. Her features are concentrated, narrowed but alarmingly also wide and unstoppeable because whenever any one passes she voluntarily halts her activity; puts on hold her thumping and shifts a little her bag by her feet as if to make easier passage for the passer-by. Then she resumes this rhythmic thumping- this continual limited extension and compression. The absorbtion compels everyone around her whether they stare at her or look away. A man with limp wrists drinks coffee and puts his cold water between his legs. He then puts the water on the floor. I am becoming disturbed by that constant motion that is becoming more fraught, more persitant, more insitant by the second. I glance sideways where an opened book is being read by a woman. I read the word "pain" and immediatley feel it. But when I look to either side of that word the text is indecipherable. I realise that after all it is in a foreign language. Maybe Polish. I look at the woman reading the book and yes she could be from Poland. I find the word again easily in the book and realise it did not say "Pain" but "Pan". A visualisation suddenly grips me. I see my mother moving very fast, then suddenly jamming to a stop and hurtling forward, jolting into the air where her feet jam with the ground. It is very sudden, very violent. It has no duration at all and no extension- just a sudden reality. I am overcome with an indescribable heaviness and sorrow. My heart literally sinks and goes cold even on this hot summer morning. Shortly after this the woman with the oriental features gets up and moves to a seat at the far end of my row of seating to my left. I see the silver waistband briefly slipping as she gets up and re-positioning on her waistline before she sits down again. Then I no longer see her yet again she seems to be extending forward leaning out in to the passage now emptied of people. I see her through the reactions and concentrations of the people now faced towards her on opposite seats. I study their faces in amazement because these keep changing; growing and diminishing in parts there in front of me as if something were actually being lived out. At the next stop she leaves seeming to just pour away very suddenly. The platfrom is full with people and even if she were there amongst them she would be unrecognizeable. I feel embarassed for even having looked behind my seat into the station in such an obvious way. I am left with a feeling of despair prompted by that encounter but which is entirely my own. For the remainder of the journey I no longer try to read in to the faces around me. I have a sense of my own privacy.

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