Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tube Portraits

Saturday, 5pm, Northern Line - Clapham Common to Old Street

1. A pretty woman being admired
Green eyes, black hair, folded arms. He moves one seat over so as better to look at her, and I notice her pleated canvas boots. Not something I would wear, but then again nobody's asked me to. I wonder how much thought or effort she put into that long black hair. From the look of the roots, the lack of stray hairs, the way it nearly seems manipulated into falling off her shoulders just so, I'd say there were a series of moments at a vanity, where she went through the motions that make her beautiful, only occasionally distracted by her straightening iron as her mind wandered about its own anxieties - Thinking of promotions, was that text really for me, what present to buy her sister for her birthday. She barely noticed when the motions had run their course. When she had put that final flourish of eye liner on with a swoop and voilĂ ! A woman worthy of admiration on the tube. What purpose this serves is obscure, but at the very least she is presentable. And this helps us all as we wander through our day.

2. An older couple speaking another language
She goes for a weekly manicure and he gets his leather jacket from his brother who sells them in a small shop on Kingsland Road. He makes her laugh. He always makes her laugh, and especially now, in this secret world of language they share together on this tube, where he loves to tease her more than ever and she loves to reciprocate with a warm smile or giggle. She is always careful not to laugh too loudly, lest someone on the carriage think it is directed at them. It is directed only at the way he leans closer when he divulges his secrets. At the pull of a disappearing space between them. At her longing and his intimacy.

3. A man fiddling with his camera
He takes pictures when he rides, appearing to fiddle with his camera, only ever pointing it at the most flamboyant members of the carriage, those dressed for attention. He doesn't publish them, although one day he dreams he will, in large prints, in a gallery or somewhere on the Southbank. When he points, frames in that digital window and shoots, he likes to imagine who will walk by them on their stroll down the river. What they will think of them and why.

4. A woman and her teenage daughter
She shields her daughter by the door, standing with an arm clutching a big yellow pole. Her daughter's eyes dart around the car distractedly - her mother has done this for as long as she can remember and she is at an age where she invites the attention her mother wishes to ward off. She relishes catching an eye, smiling, looking away, and smiling again, the way she has recently learned works. Her mother sees her looking around the car, eager to find a partner to play this glancing tennis with her. And her mother remembers being that age and playing it too. Sometimes she even wishes that the glance was meant for her.

5. A woman without a book
She dreams as she sits. First of a vacation she once took to France, and then of the man she met there, his facebook wall which never references her, and the time he embarrassed her in a message. The stops are all distractions. She will awake suddenly and see a girl in a red coat scribbling while looking at her. The girl will not scribble the dream. She can not. She returns to this slumber until her station is called.

No comments: