V/Line Vignette 6

Actual Stream of Consciousness. Literally, Really 03.06.19

I entered the carriage and immediately registered the smell of curry and the many faces looking tired, dishevelled and defeated by the wintery Monday. They’d done their time and now the journey home was as comfortable as their fellow passengers would make it. There was the annoying whistling sound of two women speaking quietly, wet umbrellas without a designated place to rest till their owner disembarked, and the smell of snacks and early dinners. A four – seater was waiting, only steps into the carriage so I took it and removed my coat, placed my bags in the overhead compartment and got comfortable before realising the curry was coming from the seat opposite and diagonal to me. Why is it that a meal that would otherwise make my mouth water was quite disgusting when wafting from a stranger’s hold on public transport? At least he is almost done, I thought (although of course all of this is thought) and decided it was not worth moving. It was a bowl of Japanese Curry, Chicken Katsu for $10, warmed and packaged by the metro supermarket. Nothing fancy, but he seemed to enjoy it between sniffles that made him wipe his nose with the corner of a knuckle, thumb of his other hand ready for the occassional swipe of whatever engrossed him on his phone. Tired of observing people’s relationships with their gadgets (generally and in my writing), I tried to tune in to the frequency of the women across the aisle; they were loud enough to be annoying but not quite the right volume to catch the drift of their conversation, although the occasional animated moment released snippets like

“it’s in every bathroom”

“he wasn’t going to go”

The one closest to the aisle had her right leg crossed across her left with a pair of chunky sneakers on show. If it weren’t for the BALENCIAGA emblazoned on the foot resting on the floor, I would have just thought they were ugly, but noting the brand, I thought they were ugly and expensive. An excess of chunky plastic sole and flimsy sock-like enclosure in a glittery black fabric that wouldn’t last more than 2 seasons tops, I thought. Something about chunky sneakers brings out a strong aversion in me. Maybe it is because it was the norm in my teen years when I would have preferred sleek, low  to the ground impalas, eventually getting something that looked like that at a bargain, was it Reebox? The bargain came at a compromise on size. It was one size too big and that and its almost red shade made me look like a flat footed Ronald McDonald. It didn’t help that my math tutor, who went on to be a comedian, had the same pair. Does he remember the student with dubious fashion sense who did the twinning thing just once then made a mental to never again wear those shoes on a Tuesday between 2 and 4pm? Probably not.

Why the hell are we stopped here at Watergardens? I am not enjoying this stream of consciousness at all and am pre-empting the way I may feel presenting these views— insights– into my mind if you like— online at the end of the week. It is always more comfortable to fictionalise thoughts in these writing exercises. I have a week; let’s see if I post it as is or chicken out and edit in another voice, or abandon it and hope for something better on my next commute in a couple of days’ time.

 

PR 06.06.19

‘Take a number on your left, grab a kit from the box beside the dispenser and use one of the changing rooms to strip down to your underwear and slip into the gown. Next…’

He repeated this several times in the span of minutes, once for each figure he saw approach his glassed-in booth. Each time without lifting his head, not allowing any of them to lose their anonymity. The next time he’d refer to them would be to call out a number, typically processing 1 to 60 before a break and starting again at 1.

Not all those coming through understood English, much less this mumbled, monotone dialect that was foreign to them, but it didn’t take long to work out the process, whatever their mother tongue. Stand in front of booth, wait till the man stops speaking, nod, take a few shuffles to the left, pull a docket out of the dispenser like the democracy at the deli, grab the plastic covered garment, queue for a booth. It was evident from the bare arms and legs and occasional glimpse of underpants and exposed flesh through the gaping holes at the back of the blue paper gowns that they had to take their clothes off save for underpants. Following the sea of blue aliens to the next room, they all took a seat in the yellow plastic chairs with deep grooves for butts that were going to be resting there for quite some time. The plastic of the seat made for discomfort wherever bare skin made contact, but they all soon enough warmed their respective spots.

There was not a lot to see while they waited. The clock with the slowly moving arms providing the only sound save for the occasional cough or sigh, the poster with a message from Home Affairs congratulating them for getting this far; translated in Amharic, Arabic, Italian, Greek and Chinese, the pictures of the Australian flag and smiling lifesavers were intended to convey the message was a happy one for those that read none of those languages nor English. A TV in the corner was angled as though viewers were lying back in a recliner or sprawled on the floor. A test match was playing out on mute, perplexing some of those who’d never seen a game of cricket, wondering why the intense focus on grass and  men dressed in white leisurely walking across it.

Despite their differences, the identical gowns served as a first step in assimilation, stripped of whatever outwardly separated them, only soon to be re-classified and catalogued by what truly mattered, that which lay within. The next stages after waiting were X-Rays for primary screening followed by spit samples spun through a particle accelerator to recover traces of conversation over the last 5 years; onwards to DNA analysis to expand family trees stored on cloud servers, joining  generations connected through global networks; and finally, wired psychometric testing to gauge temperament and likelihood of dissent.

Home Affairs were proud of their gold standard process used to make vital decisions of who could stay, where they could settle and to what degree their movements and interactions would be monitored, efficiency in weeding out trouble in this post-truth era. For some, post-processing, there’d be no smiling lifesavers to pull them out of their proverbial deep waters, nor loopholes to set them free.

 

This week we delve into my mind with a bit of stream of consciousness that came about because I had no idea what to write and so I just wrote, and a bit of speculative fiction, a dystopian tale inspired by a colleague’s description of the process she went through during medical examinations for her permanent residency application (she is American). I didn’t think I’d post the stream of consciousness but have surprised myself. Note, I did edit the stream of consciousness, but more for flow and grammar/spelling rather than the views or pettiness expressed haha.

Please let me know your thoughts on thick soled trainers, Balenciaga and the smell of other people’s hot meals on public transport and anything else you’d like to share. Also, can you guess which comedian/mathematician had the same shoes as me?

4 thoughts on “V/Line Vignette 6

  1. Mek, even though you didn’t like your stream-of-consciousness for the first section, I enjoyed it – especially the double-layer of thoughts like “(….Of course all of this thought)”! And this section made me marvel at all the work consciousness accomplishes – observing, processing, speculating, organizing and passing judgment – in very little time.

    Why, indeed would the smell of “a meal that would otherwise make my mouth water” be annoying and hard to tolerate “when wafting from a stranger’s hold on public transport?” I don’t know but I would have had the same reaction!….and the bit about the women’s conversation not being loud enough to annoy but not the right volume for quality eavesdropping -😘.

    The dystopian section felt more creepy once I realized that I had read it as something factual and in the present tense. Your writing is so smart, and overflowing with keen details and scrutiny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yes double layer of thought…coming from an overthinker like me haha. I feel like the creepiest stories are the ones that are only just slightly different to the reality we know- sort of like the ‘uncanny valley’ hypothesis about the appearance of robots and the reactions they elicit depending on how similar to humans they look. Thanks so much for your feedback- I really appreciate it xx

      Liked by 1 person

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