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The Train
by Israel Segall

Faces in bodies that don't belong there. Senses covered with headphones, screens behind which emotions, dreams and a hundred lives are hidden. The little space left by the underground train is filled with spent oxygen and tired eyes after the end of the working day.

 

Each being is engrossed in their own personal territory. Instagram stories full of paper smiles, of forced phrases imitating that thing called happiness, pass in front of the gaze of humans who are no longer human. Defeat is palpable. Minutes that are scattered on public transport, that no longer manage to cage the feelings of the recipients of affection. Temporary units that have dissipated, that have been transformed into an ignoble gas. What is time without love?

 

It is impossible to love being in that tin can with wheels that moves forward along uncertain paths, through pains and sorrows. Automatons who only know about responsibilities, who have forgotten what a caress is. Any physical contact is a threat to precious privacy. There are rumours of people who have spent years in that metro carriage and who have become accustomed to the clattering of the railway lines. That is their home, because they no longer remember where theirs is.

 

Existence is losing its meaning. Memories are yellowed photos in a newspaper from centuries past. Absolute dedication to what the mobile phone spits out, devotion bordering on the religious, which generates more content without content.

 

A mythological entity is sitting in a place reserved for the brave. His right leg is resting on his left. A posture worthy of a king, the monarch of unreachable lands. He pauses with a sigh as he turns the page of the worn book he holds with a ceremonious gesture. The movement is gentle, as if it were the last rose in his garden at the arrival of autumn. Its exhalation is accompanied by the silent liquid of emotions. The tear rolls with the slowness of a small snail. It runs through the space between the eye and the lip, looking for a place to die.

 

It drinks from the protagonist's experiences, makes them its own, treasures the steps that were taken for this specimen to be given birth. A powerful story, which is not inert, but in a maelstrom of letters written with drops of blood, of life. It rescues the smell of the meadow in which his imagination wanders, the wet grass allows him to soak the touch of the hand of the soul. He wakes up because there is someone else who does and cries disconsolately. In absolute silence, but disconsolate. He knows that this sadness is what keeps him away from the zombies that swarm between orange seats, uncertain tunnels and the lines of light that fly behind the window.

 

The story absorbs him, penetrates the nooks and crannies of his childhood, of the years he has inhabited the world that tends to darkness, to the scars that tattoo the spirit. Between sobs he puts the book down, perhaps to breathe. It loses its armour, crammed with grammar, verbal conjugations and broken illusions.

 

A jolt of the wagon moves the man standing in front of him. It opens up a luminous space. An uncertain path to a woman who weeps like him, sitting in lunar phases and in the swell of the tides.

Their watery gazes collide. For a second they perceive each other, their pupils touch. They cease to belong to that starless universe, the one shaped like a creaking vehicle, the one that does not stop because it travels aimlessly. They get on a swallow to travel a shared feat.

 

She lifts the book, a little to apologise for so many tears, for allowing her heart to soften and beat again. She lets out a rueful smile. She holds up the cover of the novel to the disdain of the audience present and the attention of the stranger who can't take his eyes off her.

 

He imitates the gesture, shows the cover of the copy and releases his version of a sad smile. From a distance he kisses her forehead, touches her with the tips of his hair and coordinates both breaths.

 

In a crowd of dull spirits they meet in a book, the same one multiplied by two. They know each other because there is magic in them. It is the same cover, engraved with the same name over the same image, perhaps from the same edition.

 

Through the wind he murmurs a name to her, the name of the main character of the story. She releases another bit of cry and moves her lips to form an equivalent word. He stands up. Without letting go of the book, he places his right arm at stomach level and his left arm behind his back. He gives her a movement of eternal respect, a bow charged with all the humanity that the surroundings had lost.

 

She shakes her head in respect, gladly accepting her interlocutor's permission. It is a dance of butterflies that had the good fortune to find themselves in a dreary wasteland. Proving that life and love can exist in the most inhospitable places.

 

Both return to the pages they had left on pause, reviving the story, letting the torrent of contained emotions flow, taking hold of the spirit of that tale that does not belong to them, but which they help to complete by devoting their gazes to the paper.

 

The faces illuminated by the screens are still asleep. Nobody notices what is going on around them, because nobody cares. Abulia is powerful. The opportunity to appreciate two people with their souls stripped bare by a book on the miserable train of idleness has been lost.

Israel Segall is a Chilean writer, Master in Arts (Creative Writing), journalist and teacher, based in Melbourne, Australia. His work has been published mainly in the press and he is starting a new career as a storyteller.

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