It’s a Monday afternoon – a clear blue-sky day with vacuum-cleaner dry Berg wind conditions that leave my skin feeling stretched and my eyes dry.
I’m playing mobile phone games on the train while I wait for it to pull out of the station – it’s one of the old trains, and in the set of seats ahead of me a group of English-speaking students is chatting.
I know these kids – even though I’ve never met them – it’s their tone, their banter and the jokes they make. At school I would’ve been drawn to this group – gentle, sharp-witted, a little geeky and outsiderish.
Compared to some of the groups I get to hear on the train (closing my eyes to shut out the mortification) these kids don’t shame anyone. But they’re so damned funny that they make strangers smile. And they’re gentle – not in a wussy way – they’re gentle with each other.
And suddenly I’m seized by an unbelievably deep sadness – I don’t know how these kids can possibly make it in this mad place. How can they even imagine the malevolence being directed at them from some quarters just because of who they are?
I don’t doubt that some of them will make it to old age, but how long will they get to hold onto the gentleness, the laughter?
And the ones that won’t?
Taken by hatred, car-wrecks, weird plagues that no-one can control?
For a moment it feels as if I am listening to the sweet banter and distant laughter of ghosts,
dead men riding. (First posted August 8, 2010 on Letterdash)