Coastal (Part 1)

When he exhaled a deeper breath and a streetlight was near, he saw steam rise up from his mouth and disappear. For some reason he was always afraid he’d lose more than carbon dioxide, like perhaps his soul might fade away into the ether too.

Every now and then a piece of gravel would grind under his wheel and he would grimace. The tyres were always vulnerable, and him with them. He was out for a midnight ride. Black socks, black shorts, black shirt, black helmet; a sentient shadow. The bike path snaked the coastline, blurred like an analogue TV picture in the moonlight. He felt like an animal on a track, nose down, about important business. All he could hear were his tyres rotating, his nostrils circulating air, and the sea pounding in his right ear. There was comfort in the fact no one on earth knew where he was in that moment. At his apartment a phone and wallet lay deserted on the kitchen table. His company was his own. His quiet company.

Houses stood silent in rows on his left. Bodies rested in there asleep or awake, it didn’t matter. None of them knew he’d passed by, beating out a cadence on the pedals, flying like a guided spirit to his destination. One thing bothered him though. There was a dog, a Labrador as far as he could tell. It never came from the same direction but it always settled in behind his back wheel and came chasing after him, not barking or growling but loping along behind like a companion, as if it knew him. It upset his rhythm, made him feel hurried as he inevitably pedalled faster to lose it. Until the next time.

 

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Ocean Paths

I set my bike against a pillar to rest (it always seemed glad for it), unclipped my helmet and let the straps hang as I sat down to watch the surfer’s peak and trough. I couldn’t hear anything, even the ocean wasn’t loud and the long-boarders seemed increasingly graceful in my silent gaze. Some dog owners chatted near a picnic table while their animals passed time with forced companionship. They gradually embraced it, noses twitching, tails swishing. Those sounds too were being taken by the wind as it blew away from me.

A woman caught my eye as she pulled on her wetsuit. Beautiful, fit, blonde. Another rider came by, slowed down and made it too obvious he was looking. The fabric accentuated her curves and they were hard to ignore. She headed down to the water. I wondered how cold it was, it was winter after all. The warmth of the sun was filtered with chill air but it was clear and I was comfortable in shorts and the wetsuits are designed for it.

I was curious to know if she could surf well. Why? I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know her name, her age, where she worked, if she studied. I didn’t know where she lived, if she had pets, if she had brothers and sisters. I didn’t know if her parents were alive or dead. I didn’t know if she had children of her own. I didn’t know if she was vegan or omnivore. I knew it was past 3, she was attractive and she surfed. I was curious to know if she surfed well. I didn’t really care though, but people have always interested me, despite how many there are. Everyone I see amazes me (some more than others). How can we all be the same yet so different? She made it out past the breakers easily, pushing out further than most of the men with smooth lithe strokes. She probably knew what she was doing. I watched a few more sets but she was still judging the conditions. I got back on my bike and started riding. I knew I would never see her again, or if I did it would be in ignorance. I would never know how well she surfed. I saw the other rider again.

He was watching the sea as well, but he was much older than me.

 

Train Trips

Trip 1.

She seemed to have

a nice smile.

I couldn’t see her mouth

but her eyes crinkled

in a way that made me

want to listen to her laugh.

 

Trip 2.

He was diligently talking business

while watching TV on his Ipad

and looking annoyed at anyone who ventured near him

in the crowded belly of the train.

From somewhere hidden

came an urge to break his nose.

 

Trip 3.

Pulling off a flamboyant winter style

only those of African descent seem able to,

he was comfortable

with the closeness of the crowd, friendly even.

I didn’t often see that.

 

Trip 4.

It was a lengthy trip

and I had a lot of time to think,

concealed behind my earphones

and contemplatively silent beneath my hood.

 

Trip 5.

Somehow the train seemed alive

and I tried to embrace it.

Using the rollicking motion,

the scenes outside

and my own fluctuating mood

I did my best to create the most beautiful sequence of words.

I never even came close to

cellar door.

 

Trip 6.

To keep him occupied,

she patiently blew bubbles

while he sat giggling in his pram.

It was a moment to grin at.

 

Trip 7.

Newspapers, daters, haters, screens, screams, teens, make-up, shaken up, dust ups, food, dudes, moods, seats, heat, meat, feet, love, beauty, repulsion, religion, scepticism, politicians, aggression, recession, depression, skin, sin, kin, violence, patience, impatience, intelligence, music, silence, deaf, death, dumbness, blindness, numbness, a caress, sunglasses, Pokémon masters, disasters, headphones, IPhones, IPads, dads, mums, sons, daughters, naughty kids, funny kids, cute kids, lunchbox lids, sad, mad, lads, shoes, losers, winners, grinners, colours, shades, blades, debts paid, fights, lights, tights, bodies, money, honeys, necklaces, familiar faces, strange faces, wasters, junkies, drugs, hugs, kisses, hisses, whispers, swisspers, fibbers, breasts, tests, jests, failure, success, business, less, more, scores, sores, laws, bores, cords, elephant pictures, erotic fiction, varied diction, imagination, the heart of a nation, conversation, action, inaction,  races, braces, racists, tastes, smells, sounds, feelings, dealings, healing, steel, heels, banana peels, pairs, stares, stairs, hairs, solitary cares, dirt, shirts, emotional hurts, nerds, ‘birds’, g force,  g string, of course, sauce, Red Bull, bullshit, dresses, messes, lessons, brains, names, shame, more of the same, men, women, humans, dicks.

There’s nothing you can’t find on a train.

 

Trip 8.

A train at night is the worst thing.

You can’t even look out the window

without meeting a stranger’s reflected eye.

 

Trip 9.

You feel like such a disappointment

when you sit down

next to someone who would rather take the trip alone.

Her tweaked mouth told me she’d suffer

my company next to her,

but that was it.

 

Trip 10.

All alone,

looking vaguely out windows

with a murmured conversation here and there

in your periphery,

one can really take the time to consider things.

 

Trip 11.

The faces rushing past seem to mirror

the entire social landscape;

people hold hopeful stares in their curiosity

but are not interested enough

to push up

on what is crushing them down.

 

Trip 12.

Essentially a box

packed full of humanity,

it manages to turn people

into something less.

Everyone would prefer to be strangers.

 

Trip 13.

Not enough people look through a window

that isn’t framed by an IPhone case.

Maybe for the animals it’s safer that way;

less inclination to destroy the world

if they aren’t seeing it.

 

Trip 14.

Travelling is simple

until the conductor sounds like a radio wave

and no one wakes you up after termination

halfway home.

 

Trip 15.

People are interesting

even when they’re not.

I wish I could see inside them

and understand everything.

 

Trip 16.

A voice so delicate,

it made the train seem like a monster

running us away to grind fragile bones

somewhere dark. Somewhere sounds fall dead

and the only way out is the one you can’t see.

You can just hear that voice

from that sweet face

but it’s all so delicate.

At the same time you hear your salvation in it,

you feel more lost than ever.

 

Trip 17.

All in all I think kids are becoming smarter

and dumber too.

It’s so jarring to hear advanced vocabularies

discussing such base topics.

 

Trip 18.

Kids catching the train to school,

hordes of them learning

before they get educated.

Their parents private money

does nothing for them sitting on the floor

at the feet of tradies, the elderly, businessmen, older students, drug addicts, and single mothers.

 

Trip 19.

They say don’t touch unaccompanied baggage.

Don’t give it back,

don’t take it away.

Alert the staff at the next station

when it’s too late either way.

 

Trip 20.

I type on my phone,

flick through six different tabs,

addicted like all the rest

but always admiring the singular clear focus

of the train.

If I could have that for one day

every problem that inspires distress,

every distraction or complication,

would fade.

 

Trip 21.

Every obsession,

everything you can’t get out of your head,

bubbles to the surface of your mind,

punctuated by the stops

and new faces.

 

Trip 22.

Traces of all the bad scents

find their way through the whole carriage

and without noise, all accuse each other

the same way people scowl inside

during conversation with intolerable

acquaintances they somehow got stuck

taking the ride with.

 

Trip 23.

It was early,

but getting on to spring,

the sun was up.

I felt my eyes glisten

as I witnessed the kindness of strangers.

I was happy to see it still existed

but sad

because my reaction proved to me

it had become an anomaly.

 

Trip 24.

On the train you’re as close

to people as you’re ever going to get

and have all the time you’ll ever need

to look at them.

You see the nape of a neck

and a different colour hair on the back of a head

and know they will never be able to see themselves in the same way.

There is a part of them that will always

be more familiar than yourself.

 

Trip 25.

Sometimes you see things that make your head turn.

Like a nervous man with bandaged legs

wrapped in a hospital blanket.

You wonder.

 

Trip 26.

In the early mornings before you get on,

the people around remind you of seagulls.

They have one objective.

Their lives revolve around how they will procure

the next cigarette or hit of something stronger.

And it makes you sad.

And it makes me sad.

 

Trip 27.

Everyone’s knee is shaking,

or their hand is tapping,

or their cheeks are flushing.

We’re all conscious of how we look

or if we’ll say the right things.

 

Trip 28.

Life is like a train.

People think it’s a line

but it’s a cycle

and it doesn’t stop

just because they decide to step off.