Something Biometric — A Short Story
At least a thousand other figures surrounded me. Some of these figures vibrated, some of them screeched, some of them were so silent that they appeared louder than anyone else nearby. People who I’ve never seen before. People who looked like the characters in my dreams. Flashes of facial profiles and longing gazes that made me question if you had really come along with me on this journey after all, and we had just lost each other when I was gently pushed to the front of the crowd that would shrink inward to queue for the approaching escalators. I really wish you were with me, as pointless as that is to say. Wishing for alternatives for the matter at hand is like wishing for a different forecast for the week. You might occasionally get what you wished for, but more often than not you’re ill prepared for what’s really there waiting for you. In this case, I am someone cowering below a slight cover above in the rain, and those next to me all seem to have umbrellas and raincoat jackets at the ready.
Of course, no one is being rained on where I physically am now, seeing, breathing, walking. Major transportation hubs are traditionally enclosed, like the one I navigate now, a sort of clinical wilderness. The near human voices that call for others on the mysteriously placed speakers are one of the only signs of life here that doesn’t remind me of you. They don’t really remind me of anything, except another reminder of the trapped souls of bureaucracy that I spent so many evenings in fluorescent offices with. It’s interesting how I could feel so oppressed by the bureaucratic structures that prevent me from being with you and the children right now as I achingly walk forward to the next station terminal, yet I truly connected on a human level with all of these souls behind desks and plexiglass. I have not a single hard feeling for anyone I have encountered since I arranged for this change in my day-to-day life, birthed out of a fluctuating currency and incremental inflation rates, largely responsible for the crowd I find myself situated in. I am hardly alone here, it would almost be laughable to hear someone else use the word “loneliness” to describe this environment, as a third person looking in. As the doors to the locomotive open and the agents with their scanners and pressed jackets wave me forward, I can’t help but feel that at least a few others here must question whether they can accurately call themselves lonely when standing shoulder-to-shoulder with so many other individuals, many of similar origins, interests, social circles and likely destinations, as well.
The balding man in a trench coat in front of me who pulls a piece of luggage a few inches from the tip of my shoes is the only person here who almost seems at home in these surroundings. As I enter the locomotive cabin, my tendency to look between the crack that separates the freight from the platform is almost ignored, though not without some manual mental effort to avoid it. I always imagine myself slipping in between the gap, even if logic would tell me that I am not of the right size to have to possess those fears. I am reminded that perhaps most of my fears are unrealistic, and this realization puts me at a slight ease as I find a place to store my luggage on board before making my way to my seat, undoubtedly fated to be sitting next to that balding man in a trench coat, as I have found myself time and time again.
I was wrong this time, and upon verifying my seat number on my ticket I realize that I am set to sit directly across from a university aged student who appears to be just as remotely situated from their past and present moment as I am, but handling it so much better. The power of youth, to be able to give up what you knew so intimately and yet remain completely, foolishly confident that everything will be the same when they return to their point of departure. The university student who sits in front of me, shielded from the headache inducing routine of individuals searching for their seats on-board and comforted by their glowing mobile device and dark sunglasses, is just as likely as me to powerlessly experience their life at home alter, by a death of a lifelong pet, or a relative in an accident. Though I’m only assuming they don’t know this to be true by their inexperienced nature, I’m ready to be wrong again, like I have been once before since I walked off of the last train I was on. I feel the two of us make eye contact with one another through the shade of the student’s glasses, and I can safely predict that our interactions as neighbourly passengers will only involve a nudge through a doze off when the ticket counters approach our seats, or an “excuse me, which station did they say this was?”. Once again, I think to myself through a split-second spark of invading cognizance, I’m prepared to be wrong again.