A short story by AndyAce83
I was at the train station, a place used many times as a symbol of life changing choices. Sort of like a wheel turning or an arrow pointing in a direction or a comet in the sky. Not to say that there are any symbols in real life. «A=A», and that’s that. There shouldn’t be any meaning beyond the direct and observable. At least that’s what I had heard, learned and understood.
So I was at this train station waiting for a friend to arrive, but he was an half hour late. So I had time to myself where I could let my mind wander. I had taken shelter from the cold of the fall in a kiosk and satt on one of the benches placed there for people waiting for trains where I had a perfect view of the newspaper stand and all the news of Norway. There where lots of celebrities having problems that day, I recall. Lots of them talking to us mortals about their problems coping with success and the horror that may be.
So I was at this kiosk at a train station waiting for a friend while reading the covers of the newspapers when a lady enters. She was probably also looking for a shelter from the cold, and as she enters a fascination smell came along with her. The smell of death, the smell of urine, the smell of something that got hit by a bus, then died, then expelled bodily fluids, then resurrected and now wanting to feel the heat of civilized society. It was the smell of this woman.
The woman was between the ages of 30 and 60. It’s really hard to tell the ages of a druggydrunk, as she obviously was, but I would guess her age in that area. She stumbled around in this kiosk, not seeming to know where she was, and after taking a few slow laps around she decided to enter the toilet.
Now, I have to be honest; I can be a cynical and prejudice person, and I felt that she was now planing to take some drugs in there. I won’t say that my suspicion was confirmed, but she exited the toilet quickly when she saw the blue light coming from within.
It was time for a couple of lapses around the kiosk again for her, while I looked at her and everywhere else my eyes could rest. Not wanting to be a voyeur or some other pervert like that I also looked at the clock, the newspapers again, my mobile phone, the clerk in the kiosk, other people in the shop etc. But the woman between the ages of 30 and 60 was what my eyes where drawn to. She had a fascinating face, and a fascinating way of dressing. Her face was drawn, her eyes distant and unfocused, her clothes wet from what had to be rain from hours ago and unpolished make-up. The mascara was running down, and seemed to be better removed than retouched and her hair was clogged and thick with what my imagination would guess was dirt. And that smell…
She had finished her lapses and decided to have a sit down and of course that sit down was close to me. I have always thought of my appearance as kind, earth like and loving. That is why I think she sat down beside me, because I looked like a person who would and could care about her misfortune. I didn’t dare to stare, but I had my glances and when our eyes met I tried to smile to her. Not the kind of smile that had dollars in it, not the seller smile, nor was it a smile that was happy in any way. It was a smile I like to define as a sad smile, where I acknowledged her pain, but tried to say that perhaps there are still hope. Perhaps Richard Dawkins and his friends were wrong, that there is a plan and a meaning to all pain that we just don’t understand yet. I hoped she received and understood that that was what I was trying to express in my smile.
So I was at the train station waiting for a friend with a druggydrunk who smelled of piss only a few feet away. She looked slanted and worn, sick and cold and her nose was running. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how. A wonder grew in me of how this person could be so depressing in the land of Norway. The Utopia of the North! How could our loving welfare system let her be so in pain, while we seemed to cry for everyone else? The old, the immigrants, the young, the sick, but no one cared for her. WHY WASN’T ANYONE DOING ANYTHING?! And what could I do? I wasn’t a powerful or even a resourceful person, but I wanted to ease her pain that so clearly came to me through her sniffing, body posture and smell. I had by now taken my scarf from around my neck and tried to discreetly pressed against my nose to save me from her smell, and save her from embarrassment. She really had a horrible smell. We are taking about a urine smell that was not freshly pissed. It was like vinegar, and it’s acid smell burned my nose.
So I was at the train station waiting for a friend with a druggydrunk who smelled of piss only a few feet away while I had my nose covered with a scarf while trying to give her a smile of ease when the lady leaned towards me. She was going to ask me something and that question was
«Do you have a cigarette?»
I could have been insulted by that question because smoking is dangerous, and did I really look like a smoker? With all the associations that came with such a claim? Did I look older than my age, with sickly white skin and yellow teeth? Who was she to say that I was the kind of person to have such a filthy habit?
I did, though, have that filthy habit and decided not to take offense and rather give her what she needed. I gave her two cigarettes, instead of the one she asked for, saying «So you have one for later as well». I also asked her if she needed a lighter, and then I gave one to her, even after I saw her having one in her crocked and cutended hand. But as she took my cigarettes, I felt one of her fingers touching my thumb and although I didn’t show it out of respect to her, I felt sickly repulsed by that.
Don’t you judge me! You don’t know how she looked and smelled. She smelled of old piss and looked like a alleyway hooker! There is a influenza plague now, if you haven’t heard! So as she left to take her cigarettes, I went to the blue lighten toilet to wash my thumb from sickly whore-piss-druggydrunk smell stain. I washed it good with soap and let in run under running water for quite some time before I felt that the thumb was clean again.
I entered the kiosk again looking over to the clerk and he seemed to smile at me. The smile was not a seller smile or a smile like the one I used but a smile of acknowledgment that I had done something nice for that woman. I smiled shortly back, more out of politeness than that feeling you get when you have done something good. What was that word again? Pride. I did not give a smile of pride. Who knows of pride in the west anyway. It’s all dark, depressing, decadent and dirty. There is no pride left to take, even when your nice to a whore. It’s all bleak and grey like the fall.
Not thinking, but feeling this thoughts, I felt the need for a cigarette myself and I exited the kiosk and went outside to indulge myself too my vice. The weather was fitting for the fall as it had a grey sky, and it was cold as hell. Not the kind of «cold as hell» where there is ice and frost, but the real cold of hell. It’s like its not cold enough for the body to react to it and therefore you start to freeze faster because the cold is snicking it’s way inside you when you look at the dead trees and the black wet asphalt from the rain hours earlier. That’s the real bone chilling cold, because that’s the only cold that reaches your bones unless your dyeing from it.
So I started to freeze instantly, and I lit my cigarette fast so I could enter the heat again. And there she was again; The pissing woman. Circling around me like a vulture. A sickly, pathetic and tragic vulture with a freshly panhandled cigarette in her mouth. The old or young lady closed in on me and I feared the smell would again hunt me, but the smell was gone. Taken from her by the clammy fall air.
I looked at her again with my ambivalent loading pity and wondered how I could reach this woman and help her without being dragged into the mud alongside her. Should I have called the police, or the ambulance to come get her? She was clearly out of it and in great pain. The need and scream for help was there, but I couldn’t do much. This person, I sort of knew, would not find me calling the police or ambulance a way of helping her. I knew, sort of, that the only thing she would perceive as help was money in the hand or a free cigarette in her mouth. Anything else, would be a rude intervention.
So I just stared at her, with that smile that now felt more goofy than anything else and I had nothing to say.
I was at the train station, a place many poets would use as a symbolic place for change and choice. Here there were no change. I was at a train station and so was she, but there were no link between us. She was already dead, and there was nothing I could say. No choice or change that could make a difference. Just a goofy stare of empathy from me, and a blank one from her.
We were standing a few feet away from each other but we were miles away, weren’t we? And she leant towards me, and than she said:
«Thank you for the cigarette»
«Oh, that’s nothing», I laughed shyly
«No, you saw me and you gave to me» she said looking into the black wet asphalt.
«I just did what anyone else would have done», I said more hopefully than truthfully.
I felt an urge to take my hand on her shoulder and tell her that there were still hope. To hell with her smell! To hell with hygine and personal bounderis. This woman needed my warmth. She was cold on what a poet could claim were more than one way. What the cynic atheist would say didn’t matter because everything is just nothing. No meaning beyond void.
But I didn’t care, I was filled with Godly love. I would care for her! I would…
I didn’t touch her, but I said that there were hope. I asked if she needed my help and she said with a low voice «Yes». A voice that gave me associations with a ghost whisper, death by embarrassment and the unknown beyond. I called an ambulance, and it arrived shortly. I gave her my number and demanded from the drives that they would care for her. «Give her the best treatment available», I think I said.
And then they drove away, and I felt pride! A sad, but still very present pride. I had done good! A good deed beyond human definition. It was good because it was good. I knew that God was pleased, and that he loved me. And her. And everyone! From the queer dyeing of aids to the atheist scientist who dedicate their lifeves to post-modern misery. God loved everyone and he had a plan for everyone. A reason for starving children in Africa freshly raped, to the liberal socialist who wanted prayer and hope out of the schools.
THERE WAS LOVE! THERE WAS PEACE! THERE WAS MEANING!
Nah, I’m just kidding.
As she lent towards me, she tried to steal my wallet. I looked at her and asked polity of what she was doing. She looked up at me and moved slowly away. I walked further out into the cold weather of fall and death. Turned too her who was now inside the warmth of the kiosk again. She looked at me, and I looked at her and she said «Ifhn flanatlaus», or some other gibberish, but I understood what she was saying. She said «I wasn’t trying to steal your wallet, but to show you that it was hanging out», but she didn’t have the strength or pride to bother to lie any more. So gibberish was all that she said.