Wednesday, January 15, 2014


On the day that the police were going to ring me about my fifteen-year-old son, I was still thinking about what he had called out to me – at least what I could remember of it, which was only the single word ‘bucket’ – just before he left the house for school – thinking about this odd word ‘bucket’ even when I arrived at the top of the stairs at Erskineville station where, seeing that there was a man who looked as if he were reluctant to descend and another already descending the last of the stairs to the platform, I made the rapid interpretation that there was something wrong with the man who was nearly on the platform and that the man at the top of the stairs could see this and preferred to keep himself safe. On a weekday, I’d noticed, and particularly when I left the house this late, platform two was usually mostly empty, so my decision to keep going down the stairs, past the reluctant man, towards the other man, who didn’t yet seem particularly strange, even though I knew he was, and who was the only other person on the platform – this decision must have looked to the reluctant man like a lapse of caution. After all, I was thinking, surely a beefy, serious-looking, knowing man would stand a much better chance against what looked to be a lither, younger, but worse-dressed man than a smallish woman of my sort. After all, if a man such as the man at the top of the stairs was reluctant to go down to the platform where the younger man, as I saw, was already weaving as he walked, now hunched with his hands to his face, as if lighting a joint, and not far enough from the steps for me to stop short of him without drawing attention – if such a serious-looking man was so reluctant to descend the stairs onto the platform, then wasn’t my decision to go down the stairs all the same the most stupid decision that a woman of my sort could make?

Of course, once I got going, it seemed far more ridiculous to stop short at the bottom of the stairs, so I passed the badly-dressed man, who had turned (no joint) and was now in mid soliloquy about the fucking smoke (from a passing train) and the fucking signs, and just at the moment when I was most quietly proud of my decision to defy the better-dressed man who was probably still watching from the stairs, I was asked by the badly-dressed man if the trains on this platform went west and my answer, which was yes, at least I hope so, could not have been more provocative, I realised even as I said it, because his answering you hope so, you hope so, went high and loud, reaching out to the Woolworths sign on the fence. I have got this far, I was thinking then. Now that I have passed the man and responded to his question, I should go to the farthest end of the platform. The people on platform one across the lines will then be able to see if I am attacked by the badly-dressed man who might now have been stirred into an unstoppable mania by my words at least I hope so. They might watch the assault and do nothing, but at least they might watch it. Even the man at the top of the stairs might watch what happens.

Not knowing, yet, about what my son was doing with his friends on another loop of the lines – the Inner West Line – when he should have been at school – his participation, as it was put, in the incident involving the death of a young man and the defacement of railway property – in fact not knowing yet what I should have known if I’d given my mind to it, which was that my son had been giving me clues all year about what he’d been doing with his friends, but that I had not picked up on a single one of these clues – that I had always thought I had to respect him and that I had always respected him, that I had always treated my son as I continued to imagine he would like to be treated – not knowing any of this, by the time I got on the train when it pulled alongside the platform, I was feeling so elated by my near miss, as I had fashioned it in my head, and my bravery, in particular, for daring to descend the stairs towards what could even have turned out to be a maniac or a rapist, that I turned to look out the window when I sat down and was entranced, soon, by the spooling outwards of the streets and of my ebbing, bright tipped energy, of my thrumming, quiet connection with the world about me.

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