Relative Motion: a relatively good idea
Just over five years ago, I found myself sitting on a train, crying. There were many reasons for the tears at that point. I found myself staring out the train window desperately wishing I could be anywhere or anyone else. Like the dramatic girlie that I am, I got a notebook out of my backpack and started writing. I remember getting home that day and I opened up a word document and I copied it all out.
That one page planted an idea in my mind. This past May, we held a workshop to develop the script for that idea a little more and I am so excited. I definitely want to write more about the evolution of the idea and how the writing process really changed the play. It is a very different piece to its first iteration.
Anyway, at the time I simply labelled that word document "Short". So here it is.
She stood on a train platform, awaiting the 7:56. She would be late for work. Again.
The orange overground train pulled slowly up to the platform, and she watched through bleary eyes as the morning throng of the commuters shuffled on board. The train was relatively empty for a Wednesday morning and she managed to grab a window seat. The woman across from her was on her phone, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook – she could tell by the movement of her thumb across the screen. She looked away before the woman could catch her staring, instinctively pulling out her own phone and opening the all too familiar apps. It struck her then how strange it was that she was pushed up against so many lives: all – for this brief journey – moving in the same direction. And yet she would never know their individual destinations. This woman sitting across from her - she’d never know her story or heartaches, nevermind where she was headed now. Work? School? And I suppose, she thought, it works the other way around. If that woman were to turn around, she’d see a girl with a pink and blue backpack, scrolling through something equally meaningless, sunglasses atop her head. Perhaps the woman would notice the tired puffiness around her eyes that – in the past, unusual – had now become a familiar staple when she looked in the mirror. Perhaps she wouldn’t. The woman doesn’t know that the last time she sat on this train – opposite a now faceless stranger – that she had the same puffy eyed demeanour, but then her heart ached for a different reason – but she couldn’t think about that now.
8:15. She really was going to be late. She focused briefly on her pale reflection in the window but was quickly distracted by the houses rushing by outside. She looked through herself to see row after row of red brick. How many families had she passed by in the last 10 minutes? She could just imagine the thousands of breakfasting households that existed for a split second. Feet away from her. For just a moment, she could imagine the good lives. A couple so madly in love that they chose to choose each other every day. So madly in love that they brought humans into the world to raise together. She imagined a father pouring coffee into mugs, a mother getting children into coats. It’s a marathon every morning – that early school run. But there’s still a shimmer in the air between them – a secret look or secret smile. A rushed goodbye kiss that causes butterflies all those years later. What an idea. But then, she supposed again, you would get the broken households: crippling loneliness, drug addictions, grief. Or worse. A household presenting the untarnished gleam of a perfect front upheld because if one were to examine those cracks forming in the corners the mirror would shatter. Far better to lose oneself below the surface, staring up through the reflection at a bright blue sky.
She was moving, they were still. Or they were moving, was she still? Relative motion. The idea that one is only moving or still when given a point of reference. For instance, she wasn’t moving at all in relation to the woman sitting across from her – they were on this journey together. They were still. However, relative to the stories outside, she was rushing by.
It all depends on your point of view.
For instance, when he was on the train with her, she wasn’t moving. She was still, whole, complete, happy. There were laughter, smiles, silliness. A nickname. A joke. She couldn’t let her mind wander back to that happiness though. Had that decision been taken away from her? Or did she have the ability to stay together? Not moving relative to one another? But then he decided to get off the train. Or maybe she made that decision for him. She doesn’t remember now. Within seconds, a chasm had opened up between them and nothing in the world could bring them back. The train doors started to beep. The doors opened. They beeped again and closed. Leaving her on the train, him on the platform. All of a sudden, there she was: being whisked away.
A moment in time that meant, relative to each other, they were gone.