Mind The Gap (Part 1)

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This is the first in a series of vignettes inspired by travelers of the London Underground.    

Descending Below

He seeks a reprieve while seated on a park bench, yet cannot escape the briefcase at his feet.  Business calls wherever he lands. The day is long, but feels much too short.  Bright rays of the sun cannot warm or distract, nor can a crisp breeze awaken or detract.  A tired, yet sharp mind pushes forth and leaves the heart behind. He dons a black suit and polished shoes; perfect attire for a boardroom or a funeral.

Three ravens fly overhead, but their wild caws fall upon deaf ears.  He stays focused on pie charts, spreadsheets, and an endless array of numbers.  Concern sharpens the ridge above his nose, for no matter how long he stares, there is too much red and not enough black.  Fountains spray sparkling drops of water, but he does not think to look.  He slams the portfolio shut and stuffs it into his briefcase.  There’s no relief for bloodshot eyes.

In a rush of movement, he makes his way to Lancaster Gate station and descends far below, where he takes the seat of one who has just departed.  Fluorescent lights rob the color out of his cheeks.

Three stops later he disappears into the void.

– – –

Unforeseen

They catch the train just before it departs.  He pushes the stroller and she holds the hand of a little girl wearing pink wellies.  Dad carries a bag filled with a picnic blanket, umbrella, and games.  A family day is the plan regardless of the rain.

The younger child sits still, strapped tightly in her stroller.  She nibbles on a piece of celery in one hand and a slice of apple in the other.  Mom reaches over to fix a few stray hairs and wipes the drool from the young one’s chin.  Older sister can’t sit still, her rambunctious little body hangs from hand rails and bounces from one seat to the next.  Mom laughs for a moment, but soon has had enough.  She asks her little girl to sit still, but has no authority.  The girl in pink wellies giggles and skips around; her mother is wrapped right around her finger.

Dad holds Mom’s hand, but his eyes wander across the aisle towards another.

At Hyde Park they depart, whole for now.

– – –

Calendar Girl

She pages through a pocket calendar hoping to find an extra day.  A fine tip pen adds more things to do on a long list and scribbles new appointments in already full squares.  Heavy make-up darkens a stiff face that has yet to smile today.  Long black hair is wound into a simple bun and not one strand has broken free.  She’s buttoned her trench coat from collar to hem and knotted a belt around her tiny waist. Page after page, she searches over and over again.  There is no blank space or empty memo.

As the train rocks, she closes her eyes.  There are a million more things to do and here she is trapped in a slow-moving tube where all she can do is wait.  And wait.  And wait.  She checks her watch and turns away disgusted.  The sun is surely down and she hasn’t eaten since dawn.  No one waits for her at home, she’s not getting any younger, and nothing seems to change.  She grips the pen in her hand and scribbles in the corner of tomorrow’s agenda.

There are still nine stops to go. What is it all for?

c.b. 2011

26 thoughts on “Mind The Gap (Part 1)

  1. A very observant piece, one I can relate to, being a people watcher myself. I always wonder what people are up to, how they live their lives, and yes… wonder, am I really so different from them? I often think about how people make the choices they do…a lot of stories to be found there.. 😉

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    • I often found myself wanting to stay on the train past my stops just to watch a little longer. My imagination went crazy thinking about what kind of backstory each person might have. We truly are more alike than different on so many levels.

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

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  2. Loved your vignettes – like watching little movies in my mind. I also wonder how it is that the person I am watching is or could be connected to me. How is it that we are on this train/plane together? In what world do our stories meet and entwine? People watching in a different country adds so many new possibilities of plot lines.

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  3. Part 1 of how many??? I loved these and am anxious for more 😛

    I don’t think I’m really all that good at people-watching, although I enjoy just paying attention to others when I’m out and about. It must be a brilliant exercise for stretching your creative muscles, just like the doodlings in your Wreck This Journal. Thanks!

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    • My muse has yet to decide how many! However, my journal from London is loaded with enough for at least three more installments. 🙂

      I spent a lot of time on the underground this summer so I really couldn’t help but be inspired on a daily basis. Everyday people really do tell the best stories, we just have to listen.

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

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    • Thanks! 🙂

      Whether it be buses or underground trains, I’ve always been fascinated by the human element of public transportation. Like you said, there are so many stories. I can’t help but speculate while also wondering what story others would create for me.

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    • Thank you! 🙂

      I’m slowly sorting through all the scribbles in my journal. Those three weeks fill me to the brim with inspiration and I suspect it’s going to take a long while to work through everything I collected and experienced. There is plenty more to come!

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    • Thanks! 🙂 I wasn’t sure about posting these, but I’m so glad I did. The feedback has been so good and these stories are reaching out just as I had hoped. The idea was to make the reader feel like he or she is on the train and these people are sitting right across from them. I’m beyond thrilled that its working.

      More are on the way . . . I have three more started. 🙂

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  4. You are such a natural, seeing when others only look, capturing hidden thoughts and emotions, fears and loves… and you do it all with words. You could write a phone book, and I would be enraptured. 🙂

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    • You are too kind. 🙂

      These stories seem to happen because I have such a fascination with people – I’m always so curious about everyone’s story. When in public, I can’t help but wonder and speculate. I’m so glad my muse gives me an avenue to express my little fascination.

      Hmmmm . . . . a phonebook. That could be interesting. 😉

      Thanks for reading!

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  5. Love them – especially the first one! Maybe it’s just because of the title. I lived in England for a while and remember the endless “Mind the Gap” warnings from the loudspeaker.

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    • Thanks! 🙂

      The title is something I played with for a long time and its part abstract literary tact and part inside joke to myself. Every day I heard that phrase over and over again . . . my typical train ride was about an hour from central London to Muswell Hill. Mind the gap, mind the gap, mind the gap . . . ahhhhh! I smile now, but at the time it drove me batty. Little did I know my muse was trying to tell me something each and every time “mind the gap” came over the speaker. These vignettes are all about minding the gap between just existing and truly living. 🙂

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  6. Several years ago, I was reading Natalie Goldberg’s book Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life while on vacation. I was inspired to take on a similar practice as these wonderful vignettes of yours – pieces of observation of the people I saw and met on along the way. Isn’t it amazing and exhilarating what comes from simple observations and trains of thought? Nice work!!

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    • Thank you! 🙂

      It’s been almost five months since my London adventure and I’m just now starting to play with all the inspiration I encountered during my stay. I was inundated with so much, its taken me this long to start writing. My notebook is so full of random scribbles and observations and now its as simple as picking one notes and running with it until I get the story. Would you believe, I wrote none of these while in London. They didn’t show up until I got home and saw my notes describing the people I saw on the train. 🙂

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      • I totally believe it! The France story you’ve been following? It was all scribbles and notes and in some cases just a list of the day’s sights! It took 2, maybe 3 years, to compile, consider, write and piece together. But as I think we both agree, travel has a way of staying with us long, long after the actual adventure!

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      • Great minds work alike! 🙂

        I think journaling is one of my favorite parts of traveling. The experiences follow me home and my journal allows me to relive everything and see things more than once and through a different lens. Sometimes I’ll write about a trip using different genres that mingle fact with fiction. Either way, the truth of what I learned and experienced comes through.

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