15. Note to self

The fact that some people stood so close to the edge of the platform as a train arrived had been a source of concern for Benny before. But it was up to the person standing there, after all — and it wasn’t so much that he thought anything could happen (although it could, in one of those worst case scenarios) but more the incongruity of the obliviousness a lot of train travellers invariably seemed to be immersed in while standing so close to that dangerous speeding mass of metal.

But in the underground stations, where you couldn’t see the train coming until the last minute, as it was hidden in the tunnel, Benny had noticed a subtly different behaviour in most people. A slight breeze started to come out of the tunnel as a train approached, which built slightly as it came closer, and Benny supposed it was the train pushing the air along ahead of it. Just a palpable waft of air at first, and then everyone knew and could make a decision or let their bodies make a decision, about whether to move or not, if they weren’t distracted. Some moved away a little from the edge, even if only slightly, or they might take half a step back, or even just lean back a little, to ease themselves away from the coming train.

One time when the breeze started, one distracted fellow traveller was a mother talking on her phone standing next to her young kid in his pusher as the train rushed into the underground station. Benny was on the other side of the pusher from her, but just next to it, and as the train hurtled out of the tunnel and ran alongside the platform he subtly pivoted his foot outward to put his shoe in front of the pusher’s wheel so that it couldn’t accidently roll forward. After the train stopped he straightened his shoe up. It was just done as a quiet cautious act, even though it was probably not needed, but no-one saw and nothing was acknowledged, except by us two in here. Which was just as well. I knew Benny harboured a hint of wondering if that seemed to be a ‘normal’ action, but I had no doubts. Looking out for others, even through a small twist of the foot, is a calm and sane way to conduct yourself — it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.

Actually, that was another thing — worrying about what other people might think all the time (well, maybe not all the time, but certainly on too many occasions). Benny had, or used to have, that annoying tendency. Thankfully he came to a realisation that those concerns could be taken too far, and he was thankful that coming to some clarity in this regard was done on his own time — and not through an embarrassing exposure.

The moment of his coming to a decision to stop the crap was a simple one, and involved a freshly made cup of tea. He would sometimes have the thought, he realised, if conditions were right, to try to place the hot tea in any sunlight coming into the room, so the slight wisp of steam rising from the cup would be caught in the light. That way (and he found himself actually thinking this) it would look better to someone who mattered if they happened to come into the room.

When I whispered this back to him, Benny could have kicked himself. What a dumb way of thinking, he thought … what a ponce … and found he was really frustrated with himself for even entertaining such a feeble viewpoint. He made a determination to steer clear of these sorts of confections of self whenever he had enough clarity of mind to know they were happening.

Which brings us to another of Benny’s realisations. In a way, he recognised that he wouldn’t have woken up to his steaming tea foible had he not had those pretentious imaginings in the first place. It was of course better to have such moments of clearer thinking on his own terms, and Benny formed a view that he should have more idiot thoughts so that he could have the chance to see them for what they were. He didn’t need a lot of urging to also recognise that these moments of clarity should preferably be experienced in the privacy of his own space, and just by us. If he needed shaking out of his own concocted complacency, then bring on the neurotic mind games and be grateful — because they had the potential to help me wake him up.

But of course there would also be the need for Benny to be able to recognise, clearly, the footprint that idiosyncrasies left. Okay … so he needed me in here too. He knew that. And he knew he should listen a little more attentively.

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