Under the Stairs

decaying building with staircaseUnder the stair things lay hidden and forgotten. Waiting for a cleanup, a distraction or a fire to end things. There is no concern for time. It waits and never worries. The stairs creak and groan and dust falls.

There are pictures of kids growing, long buried. 8 track movie reels and a brides dress, faded and unloved. Under there is a portrait of the builder, when he was a child with his girl sister in spats and lace up boots and a wide brimmed hat. Under there is cold and damp and dark except for a dusty beam. There are tiny spiders with pins for legs and piles of cockroach shit in dried up leather shoes that will never walk again. There are puppets, cars, a stroller and headless dolls. Boxes of shiny christmas balls and tin soldiers waiting for war. A bicycle rusts silently lamenting it will never be ridden again. A rifle sits on a rack near the antelope it shot which stares at the unopened door with it’s glass eye.

Under the stair are dried up memories that can fill a child’s mind. A mouse raises a family. Under there is a distant sound of a crow squawk, echoes of running, a shout and a muffled baby cry. The echo of a television and of lovemaking.

Down there the paint peels from the wall on cobwebs and layers of dust with no footprints. A broom hoping to sweep it away, old ladders and cans of paint.

The old house is sold and these memories find a way back into the world. sold off and cast aside. The musty smell is torn asunder by the smell of fresh paint. The old rusty tins look on jealously, they waited but they weren’t needed in the end. There is rocking horse and a chair the people use. They sort through the memories with rubber gloves, dust masked inquiry. Astonished .

The Train

adult city commuter groupLong coated grey men wait for the morning train. There are young people, dressed beautifully for the day, not cowed or cynical. A hundred worlds cram into this rhythmic space. Businessmen, clerks, factory workers and students. The train is a great leveller because here we are all just passengers, going to our work, tired and irritable, wishing it was the weekend, reading our papers, laptops, magazines, phones. Texting, listening, daydreaming. Few stare from the window and watch the world. They’ve seen it all a hundred times without anything new. So we stare into the middle distance and avoid the eyes. No one speaks.

The train rocks along clacking and rocking and swaying into the world. I sit wondering if I am suitably inspired to do my best today.

There is a young woman opposite in a short skirt and a long scarf. I consider her for a moment. She is curvaceous with olive skin and dark almond shaped eyes and a Roman nose, she wears earphones and reads a magazine, oblivious to a young man watching her.

The train noise is louder as we flash past a station. A lady leans against a pole, irritated that school children haven’t given her a seat so I offer her mine. She gratefully declines and continues scowling. The kids ignore her and continue laughing at their private jokes.

Along walks the uninspired conductor. To do his job with enthusiasm would be too personal. The automatic voice tells us the next stop but we check the screen anyway.

I once saw an exhibition on old trains at the old depot. There were vintage trains there, turn of the century trains with women in wide hats and long dresses and porters and orderlies in pill box caps, smoke and whistles and old platforms with steam blowing about. I remember the old red rattlers from when I was a boy and you could hang out of the window an let the wind blow through your hair. You could stand between carriages and smoke a cigarette. This isn’t one of those. This is the type where you can’t open the window.

I want to speak to someone, to connect and make a new friend. I want to chat up a girl who noticed me. I want to discuss the news I heard on the radio this morning as I dressed. I want to tell someone about my day ahead and my hopes for it. I want to talk about the war. You know, That war. An old lady is watching me. She looks too old to be going to work. I sense she in enjoying herself and the silent human contact. She is on a day out, an early riser like me. I want to reach out to her. Ask her how she is.