Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Couple of Isolated Incidents

The umbrella on track wasn't mine, could never conceivably have been mine, for there's no way I would own such a distinctly feminine article, one that wasn't even delicately floral but screamed psychedelic: a permanent Summer of Love in spite of the dreary weather it afforded protection from.
How did I see this poor victim? I saw it carted off, after a lot of bother, by an overzealous rail officer, who obviously thought he was the star of the show and not the psychotropic umbrella, to be, I imagine, either returned to its distraught owner, or to be bagged and tagged as lost property and held with all the other paraphernalia, some valuable, that somehow gets left behind on public transport; though equally it could be that it was instantly and cruelly disposed of by officers higher up the chain of command. The latter possibility made me feel quite sorry for this collapsed, and now bedraggled, item, for though umbrellas can't be described as innocuous, they cannot act alone, accidental or otherwise, as in potentially poking out eyes, tripping up passers-by or stabbing someone in the guts. Everything has a deadly use if you think, long and hard, about it, if you have the time to do so that is. And that, I've had plenty of over the years. Decades, even.
Although, never in my life have I wanted to lay on rail tracks and wait for an approaching train. Or throw myself or push somebody else into the path of one, though, in a weird way, I can understand that urge, that snap to do it. The rage that can't be contained spilling out, towards yourself or others. And certainly there were those around me, that day, that were less sympathetic. I know it was just an umbrella, but would their attitudes have changed if it was a person? Would they say it was 'just' a man, a woman, a homeless guy, a troubled girl? Nobody I knew, so that's okay?
Situations like this, even defused, create confusion. Clearly, for I was still ruminating on it on the TGV, and that was some hours after. The train hurtling along, at top speed, my mind racing with it: how exactly did it end up on track? why did it recovering it take so long? and why the judiciousness – the area sealed off by ticker-tape? You wouldn't believe the mayhem it caused if I told you, on London Underground, sure, but in Paris? I guess I expected more efficiency from the network than I perhaps would have done had I been in London.
And, as a consequence, I'd been bruised by hail. The commuters evacuated into this period of unsettled weather, which added to the enervating atmosphere. The complaints escalating and intensifying, issued with the same force as the stones thrown from the darkened skies, as we sought shelter like cattle without dogs or ranch hands to herd us. My soft flesh still stung even though it was over, done, and displayed a weird mottled branding.
The seven hour journey pointlessly swallowed up in this way. I tried to read a book: a collection of stories by Annie Proulx, and couldn't, the environment in which they were set being so very different to my own; I tried to sleep, already knowing it was useless trying as I never can when I'm inactive, yet in motion; I had a cup of herbal tea and even that didn't relax me; and so, as a last resort, I walked carriages, swaying, my cane signalling my unsteady passage, and it was only then that I could think ahead to Milan and the sights I wanted to see: the Piazza del Duomo, the Cinque Vie historical district, Leonardo di Vinci's Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria Della Grazie, and possibly, a day trip to Lake Como.
Naturally, in this blue sky burst of anticipation, I had conveniently forgotten (again!) my friend's exacting schedule, which wouldn't occur to me until I jumped into a taxi outside the Milano Porta Garibaldi station, and even then it was fleeting, my mind wanting a hotel room and supper, or something disguising itself as that for my concept of time was, by then, completely shot. The taxi driver talking to me in what seemed to be fast Italian (or was it flamboyant English?), eyeing me occasionally in the rear-view mirror to see if I comprehended; I didn't. And so, in a last stab at communication, he pantomimed to me, and for a second let go of the steering wheel and had to brake hard; the jolt forcing my inclined cane to act like a bird, trapped, and frantically beat at his windscreen.

Picture credit: Railroad Train, 1908, Edward Hopper