by Brendan Strong
On the Luas, commuters waiting to commute, waiting for the toneless beep before the doors slide shut. At the back, behind the wall that’s behind the tram, there’s two junkies. One’s on a bike, the other’s leaning on the wall and both are on something, eyes rolling, hands jerking, bodies shaking. Hands jerking. There’s only three hands I can see.
Trying not to look like I’m looking, I look. It looks to me like she’s… And that’s why he’s rocking forward and backward on his bicycle. And that’s why her hand (the visible one) is jerking. And that’s why their bodies are shaking. It’s a job. You can’t tell, because the top of his trousers are under the top of the wall. And no one goes back there. No one who’s a commuter anyway.
JONG IS A FAG and SHARON SUCKS 4 BUCKS according to the wall, which also says, mysteriously, Grift! A freesheet on a free seat says research has proven that gay drivers are at least as bad as women drivers. There’s so much being said, so little being meant.
Over here you can hear the tsk-tsk hissing of an electronic hi-hat on a keyboard generated dance track. A tall guy with a bald head and a huge adam’s apple is in a trance, maybe going over something in his head. Nothing seems to disturb him, not even “…me fuCKING MONey!” which suddenly pierces the tram. Coming from somewhere and going back there, whoever it is, they’re angry – you know that, and not just because it’s money. You can hear it, in the voice which crescendos then diminuendos. But to claim to know what it means would just be innuendo. The chatter, the chatter starts on the tram. “He said she was going…”; “Where are you…?”; “Yeah, I miss you too…”; “Just on the Luas…”
“What’d you ge’?”
“It’s fuckin’ luvely in dare, innit?”
Smells of grease and perfume. Named after a celebrity no doubt. The perfume, that is, not the grease. Although could you imagine: Your dinner can smell like Kate Moss’. You can imagine. The smell. Heavy, lingering, slippery. Mixing with that perfume that smells like a subtle room deodorant. You can hate that smell. Even bald guy has turned his lips down, squinted his eyes, screwed his nose. It’s not snobbery. It’s just… different things for different people… all these different people… you don’t turn your nose up at it, you just follow your nose to another place. To the Hugo Boss, the Cool Water, the Poison, the Estee Lauder, the perfumes named before celebrities, before no one knew anything about what anyone else did, because everyone did the same thing, smelled the same way, shared the same worlds…
A breeze comes in, I lean lightly against it. Feel it on my skin, warmed underneath but chilling. Hang over from last night. Feeling queasy. Feeling guilty. No reason that I know to – just conditioning. Spend so much time apologising, from down here, from in here, where I feel only myself, much like everyone else who can’t feel what anyone else feels… Vinyl – is that the word? The fabric they make the jackets from. The big ones, puffing out. Nylon – that’s it. Nylon on your skin. Feels alien. Smooth but uncomfortable. You feel like you might reach out and
Touch it. Touch it all. By looking, hearing, smelling, feeling, you touch it all. Make it something else, something that includes you, but it’s not the thing you experience. It’s the thing the other people experience because you’re in it because you touched it. And for you, it’s the thing they are in because it’s the thing they touched. But for all of us, and them, it’s only the ones we notice – the handjob, the music, the takeaway, the jacket – it’s the stuff. We’re just watching in on it. Viewing like voyeurs with nothing to do but sense all this. These meaningless senseless…things.
And yet, there’s something in it all that makes you write it down.