In The Central Margin
by Brendan Strong
Driving into the station for the 7.57 train. Pedestrian struggling, lumbering up to the station. Won’t make it. Pass parked and abandoned cars… no space. No spaces. Maybe a space. Turn; try again. Try and try again.
The train pulls into the station, people get on. Then it goes. They go. Turn past the parked and abandoned cars. Now what? There’s an ad on the radio for property somewhere a long way away. Have to get to work; there’s all this stuff to pay for.
Drive? Traffic, stops. Motorway. Badtime to head to the city.
Wait for the next train? Thirty minutes before it arrives. Stops on the way. Crowd. Pushing. Hundreds of private worlds, shoving each others shoulders. Hundreds of private worlds ignoring each other. Hundreds of private worlds with their too-public gasses.
Driving out of the station. No sign of the pedestrian. Must have got the train. Tortoise and hare. Newsreader reading the same-olds and usuals. Seemingly, people in Iraq are having the worst time ever; bombs going off everywhere, tribal and international war, repressed women and whatnot. They’re looking for something that’s not there. Raging about it. Keep going. Bonnie Goodbody, teen pop sensation, thinks they’ll find them, these weapons of mass destruction. These reasons for war. Tim Badboy, youth actor and spokesperson for teen celibacy thinks it’s a hoax. Thinks it’s all proper-gander. That’s how he says it. Like something people just want to have a good look at. But then what, once they find them?
Seemingly, some property developer wants everybody to be miserable. Passing brown envelopes to build boxes with big windows for the affluent; small windows for the government-sponsored. It’s all about how you see the world. A politician on the phone – a crackling line as fragile as his morality. “…a travesty this should be on the news… upstanding member of society being blackguarded by a media with nothing better to do…”
Pull onto the windy roads leading to the motorway.
Ads. Credit facilities to pay for the kinds of property in faraway places that one simply must have. Get in there before the neighbours. Get it, then pay for it; all this stuff. Pick up something quick to eat, drink, read, watch, hear, smell. Feel like a coffee. Stop at the petrol station.
Back to today’s main story…. No, not again. All this repetition turning human misery into a cliché.
Scan channels…”…let me know…/…if you wanna touch my body…/…last chance!/…in the central margin?”
What’s in the central margin?
“Yes, the central margin. He’s just walking around there”
“Well. If anyone out there has seen this guy. He’s walking in a circle in teh central margin of one of the city’s – the countries! – busiest motorways. Someone should call the Guards. Has anyone? What do you think? Give us a call on the usual number!” Coffee!
Running (running?) late. Driving late. Shit. Down into motorway traffic. Injected, with the rest of the addictive souls feeding this habit. Poetic eh? Someone still strolling round the central margin. DJ still thinks someone should call the cops. Overtake one-two-three cars. Pushing it. Pull back in. Can’t let them pass. Got to get ahead.
Step on it. 80, OK. Cars hurtling toward their destination; people toward their desinties. God help anyone who gets in the way.
“Well, I can tell you one thing now. This guy is selfish! SELFISH! How do I know? because walking round like that… what’s he trying to do? Kill himslef?”
“Yes, YES! Or OTHERS! You’re right! Jesus, what’s he trying to do at all? Is he foreign?”
“Time for another caller… Frank!”
“He must be foreign!”
“Well, why else is he doing this? Does he even care that hundreds or thousands of people will be late now?”
“Lookit – what happens the traffic anytime a drop of rain falls? What about someone causing this big spectacle like this while people have to get to work? No Irishman would do something like that. No. Foreign. Or a woman, you know, with her MPH or whatever it is…”
“Errr… thanks. Think it’s time for a break…”
Ads. Buy a car. Get a credit card. Buy a holiday. Smell good, fuck more people. Listen to this, be loved.
Still more talking. Endless talking. “Has anyone called the guards yet? Someone should call the guards! This guy is posing huge danger to everyone!” Weapon of mass destruction? More talking.
News: Teen sensation in rehab shocker. Middle aged teen-dream in plastic surgery shocker. Paedophile in paedophile shocker. Motorway backed up, as man walks in circles in the central margin.
62. Slowing down too quickly. Signal, move manouver. 72.
Stop. Start. 40.
Not far enough along to make it. Can’t be late.
Project. Get it back on track.
Meet or beat deadline.
Bonus. Paycheck. Money
I don’t know.
Full stop. Traffic backed up to here. Never make it now.
Stop-start. Two steps forward, thirty seconds stopped. Someone walking in the central margin. In circles. Round and round.
“He’s obviously a lunatic, Gerry…”
“I’m not Gerry. Gerry’s on 2FM”
“But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about this guy in the central margin. Obviously a lunatic. Needs locking up before he gets near kids or women or something. Who knows what he’s capable of!”
“I’m not Gerry! He’s on 2FM! But go ahead anyway?”
“Is he a foreigner? Do we know?”
There he is! Walking in a circle. Car abandoned at the edge of the margin. He’s just walking round. What’s he got going on there? What is it? I have to know!
“And here is the news at nine AM. Gardai have issued a traffic alert in Dublin’s suburbs as a number of people have abandoned their cars on the motorway and are walking in circles in the central margin. No demand has been made as yet…”
He won’t talk to me. I look around. I tried first to ask him about… something. But he won’t talk to me, so I gave up. I look around. A breeze brushes the grass in the central margin here. There’s others here too, in the fresh air. Looking around. Cars pass. I can let them. I have some things to figure out.