Pain, survival and chaos on the train from Newry

That’s Men: Fellow travellers give insight into lives of pain, survival and chaos

 

“Are you playing footsie with me?” she asked.

I had gotten on the train at Newry expecting a quiet trip to Dublin.

There weren’t many passengers so I would have the table to myself.

I focused on pushing my suitcase under the table and when I looked up they were settling in around me – a young woman and a slightly older couple.

I started moving the suitcase again when the young woman asked: “Are you playing footsie with me?”

I explained what I was doing and she laughed and took a large bottle of WKD alcopop out of a plastic bag she had plonked on the table. She also took out a can of Magners cider and handed it to the man. The older woman who sat beside me opened a bottle of vodka.

The man asked politely if I’d like to sit at a table across the way? Not wishing to look like a wimp, and in the hope of getting a column out of the situation, I said no.

As he worked through his can the man began to talk about his life, and the political situation.

Unfortunately, his words came out fast and jumbled and I couldn’t make out most of what he was saying.

The woman beside me said she had false teeth because her own teeth had been 'boxed' out of her by her ex

He was from Belfast, he said many times. He implied, through making machine gun gestures, that he had been involved in the Troubles. If the war started up again, he would be out there fighting for his people. That was what you had to do.

He wondered if I knew what horse had won the Grand National. I did not. He also wondered if I was a judge? What, I asked in an attempt to curry favour, would a judge be doing on a train?

He started another can and returned to his theme of his involvement in any future war. He did not think there would be a war, but certain plans had been made. If he said what they were, I missed the information because I understood so little of what he was saying.

Some mention of teeth arose. The woman beside me said she had false teeth because her own teeth had been “boxed” out of her by her ex. Nobody commented on this. She seemed a pleasant sort of woman and I felt sorry that this violence had been done to her.

The man went off to the loo and when he returned he challenged a younger man for shutting his laptop as he was walking past. What had he done that for? The young man got up and left the carriage.

The train stopped at Dundalk and the young man got off. This, the young woman pointed out, was why he had shut the laptop. That didn’t stop her companion from being agitated about it. Among other things I didn’t catch, he mentioned the secret service.

The woman beside me had finished her vodka and went and got herself a pint of lager. A few minutes later the train jolted and the lager was upended all over the table. In the general confusion that followed I took my case and went off to another carriage.

I heard the familiar crack of a can of cider being opened

I saw no sign of them at Connolly Station in Dublin. On the Luas on the way home, I heard the familiar crack of a can of cider being opened. The man who had opened it wasn’t the man on the train, but was very like the man on the train. The woman with him wasn’t the woman who had been sitting beside me, but was very like her. The cider wasn’t Magners, but Bulmers, which is the same cider under a different name.

They were discussing a ring she was wearing. All I heard of the discussion was, “I found it in the purse yer wan robbed”.

I felt I was in familiar territory again, a territory which includes pain, survival, chaos and keeping going through it all until it kills you.

I arrived at my stop, left them all behind and walked on into my secure and cosseted world.

– Padraig O’Morain (pomorain@yahoo.com, @PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness for Worriers. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email.

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