|Pic by Serge Melki via Wylio.|
A few days ago I sat on a train out of London. Not an unusual occurrence as I have to travel to college each week, but this week I felt a little bit like I was viewing it with my eyes fully open. Because, I realised that we live in a world of bubbles, our own little bubbles.
Isolated. Behind glass. Exposed but Covered.
So, as I sat, reading my book, in my own personal little bubble, I was aware of a change of atmosphere around me. As I withdrew myself from the world of ’emotional fiction’, I could hear the dulcet tones of Whitney Houston somewhere behind me. Not unpleasant, I admit. Unusual maybe, and a bit tinny but not sufficiently annoying to react. However there was definite tension rising in those around me.
Passengers eyes started to catch across the carriage, a shared irritation, a knowing look, a raise of an eyebrow and their bubbles are suddenly burst.
‘Didn’t we almost have it all’ blares out across the worn, chewing gum stained seats. Then it stops and people breathe a visible sigh of relief.
Headphones, iPhones, laptops, tablets, we are isolating ourselves from the world around us and choosing to do it. Even now as I write this I’m on a train, on my ipad, I haven’t even looked at the chap next to me, or dared to say hello, or shock horror, ask his name!
The world flies by outside and our sterile bubbles of life move on. Are we sharing anything other than a carriage? I have a desire to scream at the top of my lungs or worse, instigate a game… Ha!
Whitney begins again, the same chorus, ‘didn’t we almost have it all…’
There is tutting and now turning of heads but the same line the same chorus keeps beginning and repeating like a surreal loop. I think the Whitney fan has not realised her headphones are not plugged in. She’d probably be mortified If she knew the whole carriage was hearing her personal, perhaps heart felt, music choice played over and over.
Who are these people, anyway, what are their lives I wonder?
Opposite me is a young guy, a student, clearly flirting with a disembodied voice as he chats into the tiny microphone hanging round his neck. The voice, even aside from the obvious disembodiment, seems uninterested. I want to say to him, don’t waste your time mate, she’s clearly fobbing you off.
The pretty young Whitney fan, is still irritating half the carriage.
The annoyed suit across the aisle from me, what’s his story? Tutting at the Whitney fan, whilst himself committing the apparently cardinal sin of commuting (according to my friend Matt) eating his dinner on the train… Why is he heading home from work at 10 o clock at night? Why is he having to eat his dinner on the train? Is he lonely I wonder? Why is he cross? Has he had a bad day?
‘Didn’t we almost have it all….’ Did we? Did we almost have something here in this carriage, a moment of humanity? or am I just being overly romantic?!
Then, Sebastian appears. He is stood almost intimately close to me, just a few inches away, I can see the stubble on his chin, the few hairs that have fallen on his collar, the rings under his bored eyes. It should be too close, too intimate, except that we are separated by a sheet of glass. He doesn’t even look at me but stares vacantly down the platform as he blows his whistle and we slide quietly on down the tracks.
Whitney is still warbling, and I share a knowing grin and a raise of an eyebrow with a woman opposite, but I think we are both amused more by the angry suit that the volume of the music. In an instant I am connected with someone else on this train, we shared something more than the experience of train travel with Whitney Houston. We shared an emotion, a response.
And then the bubbles begin to form again. I stare out the window, into the darkness of night punctuated by the blur of a street lamp or a car headlight as we zoom past. Back to our lives, back to the bubbles, nothing more is shared…