I have no idea where I’m going with this.
I couldn’t tell if she’d had a hard life or was just ugly – not beaten with the ugly stick ugly, but certainly roughed up a little by it. Her sallow complexion was either a genetic predisposition or… actually she could be a heroin addict.
Does that count as a rough life?
Her friend/travelling companion/possible sibling – they shared some genetic markers which may indicate familial bonds, or simply the shallowness of like attracting like… They weren’t close friends – they sat in distinct ‘silence’, with headphones on, occasionally exchanging words, but mostly not. Interrupted by the odd, annoyingly loud and cheerful message tone, the message would be read immediately but not shared.
The ugly one – that feels mean – the heroin addict… is that better? No, perhaps not.
The less aesthetically pleasing one would occasionally check her phone, fruitlessly, and every time the other’s phone chirruped there was a flash of wistfulness, followed closely by annoyance.
No track marks on her arm, not clearly visible, at least not from this distance. Maybe she shoots up between her toes? Or straight through the eye socket.
See, it’s one thing to oppose the beauty myth perpetuated by society and magazines and etcetera, but it’s another to live it. We don’t – not really, and that’s not really our fault. Our brains are wired like that. We still make value judgements on looks, as much as we deny it.
Humanity, still shallow.
Two ‘gangstas’ boarded the train from a leafy suburban station. You know the type: baseball caps askew – not in the rakish manner, but horizontally, rendering the brim, the key part, entirely redundant. Basketball singlet, proclaiming allegiance to some American team – oh look ‘Bryant’… is he still playing? What happened with that rape case?
And of course, pants hanging down…
One of them had two pairs of sunglasses – it was night – one atop his hat atop his head, and another hooked over his yellow top. Despite the nearly empty carriage, they sat across from the two girls. They began flirting with the pretty one, who had not so subtly adjusted her bra.
Soon enough, I was subjected to their taste in music, courtesy of a tinny speaker that would crackle on the bass. The persistent bass.
The few other people in the carriage moved away – and eventually, I stood up and walked over to them.
“Would you mind turning that off please?”
“If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
“How original.” I stood there, waiting. The girls looked uncomfortable, the boys joked between themselves for a bit before one cracked.
I stood there. Just staring at them. Waiting.
One of them slipped out a knife.
That’s what I was waiting for.
Before the girls could panic, before the boys could stand…
And they did.
Not entirely. Immobilised, but still aware.
The eyes, they’re always the giveaway. You can see the panic, the fear, the complete sense of being trapped…
I gave them time to appreciate their situation.
The ugly one – I spared her from witnessing it – dead is still dead, but at least she didn’t go entirely terrified. The others…
I let them watch as ‘Kobe’ plunged the knife deep into his companion’s chest, then across the pretty girl’s neck, then his own wrists, diagonally, deep. I propped them back on the seats, eyes, still haunted, and now anticipating. Blood trapped, waiting, waiting.
I went and sat back down.
The train stopped at a station, and I alighted. I watched it as it rounded a corner. It would hold for a little bit longer.
“Enjoy your music.”
She got off at Hornsby.
The ticket collector manning the gate waved her through, nose wrinkled, eager to get her past.
She had the lingering aroma of urine – she had relieved herself in the carriage shortly after Thornleigh – and she still trailed a train of droplets.
I put my ticket through the machine and followed her over the pedestrian bridge with its cracked plastic and flick’ring lights, where her smell mingled with the traffic fumes and the bitey smell of train brakes. It always reminded me of the taste of blood.
She stopped suddenly at the top of the steps to light a cigarette, blocking the thoroughfare. I pushed past as she fumbled with the lighter.
Her hair was stringy and unclean – I could sense the life in the undyed roots. Her teeth were yellowed under smudged lipstick, a bright red, a vermilion, that highlighted the sallowness of her complexion and her sunken, hollow eyes.
It was a cheap disposable lighter, she was having trouble with the child proof element, and she held it in fingers with skin stretched taut, with ill fitting, gaudy jewellery. Fake, most of it. One stone was real…
I moved down the concrete stairs and into the relative darkness of the alleyway and waited.
Life’s a funny thing – so many pieces that need to fit together perfectly to keep the machine running. All you need to stop it is to switch off the right part. Or break it.
The hypothalamus is the fastest, it controls the autonomic nervous system… but it also looks suspicious.
The heart though – this was perfect, just another cardiac arrest, just another victim of the modern lifestyle, just another…
I pictured it on my mind as she walked past – good, it was already damaged – and I squeezed.
She dropped to her knees, cigarette falling from her mouth and rolling in a wide arc, dropping ash, to end at my feet, the fire inside wavering. She gasped and collapsed to the ground.
“Are you okay?” Someone I hadn’t noticed. “Quick, call an ambulance.”
If she lived, would they be so arrogant as to claim saving her? Would they be puffed up with pride? Would they boast about it on their Twitter feed?
And if she died, would they feel remorse? Guilt at their helplessness? Lament their own mortality? Rage in sixty four characters or less?
Better a life lesson than false empowerment.
I kept the pressure on her heart. Switched off – disconnected – the hypothalamus.
Odds were good the doctors would miss it – given the circumstances.
“She’s stopped breathing!”
“They said the ambulance should be long!”
It was a young couple, dressed casually. He was cradling his Iphone to his ear.
“CPR? Uh… Not for ages… Uh…”
He looked at the prone women, disgust clear on his face. The girl looked pleadingly at him. It lingered. It hesitated.
I saw the relief as he heard the siren approach – the feeling that it was out of his hands, that it was no longer an issue. The cavalry had arrived.
It wouldn’t matter.
Maybe later, he’d feel bad for not trying, for not helping enough. Maybe he’ll wonder if he could’ve made a difference, if he could’ve saved her if he had acted faster, if he had acted.
Maybe he’d feel guilty.
This was mercy.
I ground out the cigarette with my boot and walked away.