Like a fly on the wall. That is what I am. A fly on the wall that is noticed in the underlying conscience that is only considered long after the lights are out and the thoughts are silent. I am a watcher.
The station is large, noisy and very busy. There is a track on either side of the platform. One in the direction of Cote-Vertu and the other toward Montmorency. Underneath them is another platform with tracks heading in the direction of Agrignon and Honre-Beaugrand. For such a busy place it is very clean. There must be a lot of cleaners on staff. For a place so far underground it is bright. Most people do not have time to notice. They are always in a hurry, even when they are not. I wonder in the station does it to them. Do they feel too exposed here, sensing an urge to scurry away before they are seen.
Too late. I grin.
It is a great place to watch, looking over the railing to the open platform below. Four sets of stairs rise up to where I am standing, leading the way to the surface; or descending to the platform below, depending on a person’s perspective. The trains go on, rushing in and out, unaware of the fly. The noise is incredible, exhilarating. So too is the silence that fills the station in the absence of the trains.
Just then another train pulls in from the Cote-Vertu direction. It is fascinating to watch as the people exit. The doors open and they seem to pour out onto the platform as water poured from a pitcher. It is hard to see the faces in the crowd, just a big blur of motion. But I want to see the faces. I want to see the various styles of fashion. I want to see creases of worry and the smiles of friends. I want to take note of the seriousness of the business suites and the haggard look of the mom. I want to share in the wonder of the children as they see it for the first time, and sense their thrill of adventure. I force myself to see them.
The whole thing reminds me of a heart. The tunnels are like the veins bringing in the city’s essence and the arteries taking them out again. The station acts as a chamber where the essence mingles, separates and gets circulated to the extremities. If one stands long enough to notice one can sense the rhythm of the place. In, mingle, separate and out. In, mingle, separate and out. Most of the essence is not even aware of the dance they are part of or of the greatness of its role in the life of the city. I can see it and it makes me want to dance along. It is a wonder to behold and greater still to realize it’s beauty.
I am amazed at the speed of it all. Within seconds of the train’s arrival people dissipate in every direction. The doors open, hundreds of faceless bodies pour out while others push in. Some of the bodies rush across the platform to another waiting train. Others disappear to the platform below. Still others head up, rushing past me as if they are drowning and need to get to the surface for air. Then the trains roar away with the essence of the city safely tucked away. Silence follows and it all starts over again.
As I watch I also see that this place is a great equalizer. It does not matter who you are, where you were born or what errand you are on, everyone is treated the same. Maybe that’s why some people don’t like it and do everything to avoid it. Business suites are mixed with mini-skirts, granny dresses, and polo shirts; lots and lots of polo shirts. It is summer. Tall, short, wide and thin. Black, white, yellow, green, turquoise (the hair). French, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, even some English.
What is amazing to me are the millions of people living on the surface totally oblivious to the activities below. Some have never even been curious enough to descend to these hidden places. Perhaps it is more fear than absence of curiosity. People can be funny about these things. It’s their loss. They are missing the dance. But then again, most of the participants miss it as well, not being aware, not seeing, not understanding.
I am startled from my deep thoughts and reflection of the dance. From a faraway place the station comes screaming back into my view. There seems to be a voice much nearer than the din of the passing crowd of essence. It has the same effect on me that a teacher’s voice has a on a student; sucking the student away from his daydream to the cruel reality of the classroom.
I realize the voice is being directed at me. At me!!
It belongs to a middle aged woman who stands three feet behind my right shoulder. I feel caught, embarrassed, exposed as I turn to her, trying to make out what she is saying. She is a foot shorter than me, with back wavy hair. Her face is not quite right. It looks a bit distorted, perhaps from confusion. Yes, from confusion. I see it in her eyes. My mind is slow to focus on her words. Ah, she is speaking French, with a very thick Spanish accent. No wonder. I adjust without realizing I am adjusting. The words become familiar.
She is looking for directions. Vendome? Not far from where I live. Not this platform. The one below. Orange line. Direction of Cote-Vertu. Second stop. You are welcome.
A heavy blanket of realization descends upon me as she hurries away; I was seen.
The spell is broken. I put away my pen and notepad with mixed regret and anticipation. I consider the direction I will take. To where do I want to be circulated? Which of the extremities may benefit from my purpose?
The fly crawls away and joins the essence.
I’m not very good at this.