>40 Minutes

by Brendan Strong

>The train slows, and it’s on. The passengers – each one believing they’ve stood too long – hustle for a seat. One foot on the platform, one on the train and you get an accidental elbow in the stomach. Doubling over your head is an accident in a large, ugly woman’s breasts. She turns as you raise your hands to apologise, and you apologise to her ass. She turns her head, you look away. What do you do?
The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does: Brings the commuters from the commuter towns to the city for their city jobs. It’s not that complicated.
The big one – who’s breasts and ass you know – her phone is ringing. TALK TO ME TALK TO ME TALK TO ME goes whoever’s on the other end, while the train goes chugga-chugga-chugga rrraawwwr up to speed. The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does.
“Hello” she says, talking to the phone, and her accent reminds you of souped-up old cars, high rise apartments, heroin, vacuum cleaners and overalls. You deny your mind such prejudice, because it’s just not what you do.
“Well?” she asks and you know whoever it is just isn’t talking. You guess they’re just doing what they do. You can’t judge – it’s not what you do.
“What did I do?” she asks, then says, sometime later – maybe seconds, maybe minutes – “Are you going to talk to me?” Is that what they’ll do? There’s a slowing, and a judder, and all of us – us passengers – lightley leaning forward, knock each other a little. Not much, just a touch. That’s what happens when the train slows.
More passengers on, because that’s what they do. You angle to stay near the girl, who is refusing to “Defend” herself (her word, not yours). She must be doing what she does. But you’d love to know more. A toe in pain as a passenger gets on. ‘I’m sorry’ he says to nobody. That’s what the passengers do on a train with no room.
The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does: Brings the commuters from the commuter towns to the city for their city jobs. It’s not that complicated.
“Talk to me” says the girl. Now she’s doing what the person on the other end of the phone does. And it makes you wonder, because that’s what it does.
“…I wasn’t…” she says, and the conversation is halting because that’s what they do when they talk. “No… she said to me…” shaking her head because that’s what it takes “I didn’t say that. I didn’t. Besides, what Mary says… what Mary says… what Mary says… WILL YOU FAWCKIN’ LISTEN TO ME!” and the passengers turn their heads, because that’s what they do. “I NEVER SAID ANY OF IT! MARY SAID IT TO ME! I DIDN’T EVEN ASK! OF COURSE I TRUST YOU… of course I trust you, but now I don’t know because you’re acting like this.” She’s silent for a while, and some more turn to look, but no one gets caught, because no one does that.
Another stop. She’s still listening, I’m still listening, and the passengers keep shoving because that’s what we do.
The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does: Brings the commuters from the commuter towns to the city for their city jobs. It’s not that complicated.
You should read a paper. That’s what you do. Learn about what the celebrities don’t eat, who they sleep with, what they do to each other. What they do. But this… this is what people do. It’s too much to give up on, even if she is sniffing, holding it back. She does that because that’s what she does. “No, John, no. Not any more. You know it.” Very precise. Space in between for him to do whatever he does. Striking new dimensions, because all of this is done by John. The possibilities! What could they do!
Another stop, but at the edges of the city. This time, some commuters from the commuter towns get off the train because that’s what they do. It’s OK for now, because it’s still too packed to move away from the woman. You don’t want to miss it because now you know – that is not something you do. The beeping of the doors obscures what you hear. They didn’t do that before, because normally that’s not what they do. But you’ve lost concentration, so that’s what they do.
The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does: Brings the commuters from the commuter towns to the city for their city jobs. It’s not that complicated.
You try to lean a little closer as the chugga-chugga-chugga turns into the rraawwwr. But your phone goes off. TALK TO ME TALK TO ME TALK TO ME goes whoever’s on the other end, and the girl turns to look at you, because that’s what she does. She raises her voice, because that’s what she does. You answer your phone, because that’s what you do.
“Hello” you say, because that’s what you do
“Murt! Listen!” he shouts because that’s what he does, and deep inside you sigh. Why do you do this? You have no idea. But you do what you do because that’s what you do. Suddenly, you hang up. That’s what you do.
“I won’t take anymore of this” she says, because that’s what she does, and you know there was a good reason to do what you did. Lean in again as the train slows to a stop. Lucky for you – even numbers on and even numbers off. You continue to lean.
The commuter train for the city does what the commuter train for the city does: Brings the commuters from the commuter towns to the city for their city jobs. It’s not that complicated.
“No” she is sniffing, it seems for a reason. Something tells you there’s more. More than what we all do. That’s what the feeling does.
The train pulls in to its terminal destination, because right now, right here, that’s what it does.
“Britney” says another girl, because that’s what she does, and Britney, who is your girl, turns. That’s what she does. “Don’t worry about it” says the second girl. “Could you hear all that?” “Everyone could. Everyone could” “Oh Jesus, I’m scarlet”.
The second girl comes over and hugs the first. That’s what she does. The first girl smiles because that’s what she does. You get off the train, because this is the terminus and something tells you there’s something more. The people explode from the platform to the city, that’s what they do. There’s nothing left of them, save for Britney and her equally unattractive friend. You start walking to work, because that’s what you do. But you never quite get there.
The commuter train for the commuter towns does what the commuter train for the commuter towns does: Brings the commuters from the city to the commuter towns for their commuter lives. It’s not that complicated.

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