His dark blue trousers stop a full two inches short of his skinny ankles. Dirty, Reebok trainers stick out the bottom, laces trailing in the grey pool of water by his left foot. He scuffs his heel carelessly against the platform and shifts his weight nervously to the other foot. A sliver of pale skin stands out between his scrunched socks and the loosened hem of the trousers. These are not legs that often see the sun. These are legs that serve a purpose, they march daily from the 3rd house from the end, the yellow one, to the train station and back. These are legs that wait carefully in the cold, in too short trousers. They split the workload generously, holding up the boy, holding up the notepad and twitching excitedly with the rest of his body.
This is a boy who lives in a shadow. He pushes himself up onto tip toes for the briefest second and shivers, pulling his navy anorak closer around him. He sniffs. A school girl nearby nods subtly in his direction and her companion turns to look. They both laugh quietly beneath their identical fringes. He pulls himself sharply down off his tip toes. His mouth twitches, but he doesn't sniff again. He lets the wet trickle fall from his nose and slide gently down towards his mouth. His eyes dart towards the girls, they've turned away. He blinks furiously and a hand reaches up to catch the slime that threatens to encircle his thin lips. He's embarassed, he shakes himself slightly and concentrates hard on the notepad in his hand. His fingers trace the metal spiral at the top of the page. His eyes can't help but find the two girls. His legs tremble - angry at themselves for giving away his position.
This is a boy who lives in a self-made shadow. He's desperate to be back up on his tip toes. If it was later, he could do it - if it was 10pm and he'd already shared his silent cup of tea with the guard, he could do it. But it's 4pm and there are people. People who don't understand him. People who wrinkle their noses at the smell of damp that wafts off his clothes. Some of them try to catch a glimpse of his notepad. Some of them know he will be there and shake their heads sadly.
This is a boy who lives in a self-made shadow of passion. He furiously stares at the numbers on the notepad and feels the encroaching energy coming off the people around him. Concentrate. He blinks - once, twice, and waits. He waits for the crushing tide of air that he expects in 68 seconds. He waits for the roaring, screaming, chaos of noise that will engulf them all on the platform. He waits for the presence of the almighty metal box that will call all the intruders off his platform and suck them up into the dark of the carriage. Then, he will be alone again - he will wait for the next wave.
He stares at the numbers - the method behind the strength. He licks his lips, enjoying the tidy lines of figures that control the monster. He risks a glance at the tracks - how do these carefully pathetic lines keep his dragon at bay? He longs to touch them... just to reach out his free hand and hold the note pad in one hand and have the metal beneath the fingers of the other. Then he would be the master. Then he would hold all the tools with his meagre body and all the drones on the platform would be under his control. He shakes his head, trying to clear the image before his feet take him towards the tracks again. He's already had the warnings. When he goes back to the 3rd house from the end, the yellow one, he listens to his father's warning about going too near the track. They are the same warnings he used to hear with his cup of tea. His cup of tea is silent now as the guard watches him and hopes he is warmed. His father's warning carry on. His voice is thin with worry and love. Love for this strange boy who came from his body and yet lives so far away.
His father watches him at night. Eyes wandering sadly from the Sale Sharks posters on the walls, to the pale face asleep on the pillow. This is a boy who lives in a shadow, punctuated by a desperation to understand and be loved. A hundred times a year his father wants to take the posters down, he wants to tell the boy it's okay... wants to come to the station and enjoy the trains instead. Just to show him. But he doesn't, and they continue to orbit each other quietly in the 3rd house from the end, the yellow one.
The flock of people edge closer to the train tracks. They sense the approaching train like animals and prepare themselves for the fight to get a seat. He ignores them and holds his ground. Waiting for the vicious air to push at his face and make him feel alive. So much harnessed fight in the regimented comings and goings of the transporter. He smiles a little and then wipes his face clean before anybody sees. The front of the train scores a harsh line between the platform, carving up the station like a drill through wet clay.
He is running... he is running with the driver... his heart might burst with the effort to run alongside. They are together. He runs with all the steam in his legs of a sprinter off the blocks of an Olympic stadium. He runs, and runs and runs... commuters step back in surprise - swearing under their breath - odd ball - and he runs... His feet move so fast and disorganised beneath his feet that he is barely upright. His green back pack rattles and thrashes about trying to lever itself off his shoulders. His empty lunch box clatters loudly but no one hears it above the crunching, gravelly, bass-filled roar of the train. The school girls laugh openly and shout after his fleeing back - Freak - and he runs. He runs until the platform finishes and there is no more concrete to support his dirty Reeboks. This is a boy who lives in a shadow that cannot be outrun.
He stops. Breathing heavily, wet lines flying from his gaping mouth as he pauses. He looks at the driver. He looks down at the notepad. He looks at the front of the train and begins to mark down carefully in the correct column with this HB pencil. He takes a deep breath and enjoys the smooth lines of the drivers cabin. Then, head down, navy anorak flapping in the damp breeze, he begins the long walk down to the other end of the platform, like the pinball spring preparing for the next game.
"You wanna watch that lace." calls the guard, and the sun comes out briefly from behind a cloud.
He stops and turns to look at the guard. He looks at the face beneath the hat, and the smart uniform, and the boots with their own neatly tied bows. He swallows nervously and his lips part just a fraction. His free hand tugs nervously at his ear and he tries to push a little noise through his dry throat. His heart is pounding from the run, his eyes feel shinier than they ever have before. He eyes the guard and thinks hard about the silent cup of tea.
"That's what my Dad says." He tries nervously, and the son comes out briefly from behind his cloud.