Tram Ride

Inspired by this blog – art project:

On the tram home, I decide to observe and record
A person who reads, and what she or he is reading
I don’t have my camera.
I would not have the courage,
to photograph a stranger;
I would not have the talent
to photograph them well.

I stand in the dark, on the edge of a puddle of orange light.
A tram approaches. It is crowded.
People look unhappy.
If I was on that tram
I would look unhappy.

I watch a man try to get on
As another man tries to get off
I look away.
I cannot watch this kind of exchange without my heat rising.

Another tram approaches.
I squint and see, yes, it is a tram that will take me home.
I watch the first tram pull away;
The second pull up.
It is as empty as the other was full.

Happily, I ascend the stairs
(After, of course, waiting for the people who wished to descend the stairs to do so)
But in my calculation of which tram to catch
I had forgotten! My project!
There are only ten people on this tram!

Of the ten, phew, one is a Reader.
I am a reader too but today I do not have a book.
Today, I do not look like a Reader.
I have just finished a book and I am not ready
– not yet –
to start another.
No one knows this except for me. And now, you.

The Reader is wearing a purple jacket.
A woollen scarf. Deep red hair (dyed) with a tint of white blonde
A tint in the fringe; some tints in the back.
Her lips are deep pink; the bottom fuller than the top.
She pulls those lips tight until they disappear
As she turns the page.

The book is Fair Cop by Christine Nixon.
I am glad of the large sized font and the clear image
of ex Police Commissioner Nixon.
The Reader looks to be the same age but this is not enough
to inspire sympathy for Christine.
Poor Christine. Poor Police Commissioner.
The media judged you
The public judged you
And this Reader does not approve of your work
At least, the way she bites her lips and frowns
Leads me to infer
That she does not approve.
At least she is giving you a chance, yes?
And she is reading, hopefully hearing
Your Side of The Story.

Another Reader gets on the tram.
This one has run to get Just This Tram.
It is exactly the right tram for her.
She is very happy to get on it.
She is very eager to sit, to settle her hair
(in disarray from the run from office to tram stop)
And to extract her book.
It is a library book. I know that sticker.
“That’s my library,” I do not shout at her
I only shout this inside my head.
A quiet shout, heard only be me. (I hope)

Kerry Greenwood.
Cartoons on the cover. A lot of green.
I cannot see enough to see a title.
Running Reader holds her book differently
More horizontal; her head bent as she reads.
Her sparkly earrings catch the light.
I like her disarrayed hair and the splotches of red
on her cheeks and her arms.

Suddenly, she raises the book in front of her face
But too quickly, she turns it and stares at the cover
While I can only stare at the text
Neither she nor I can make any sense of the cover
She returns to reading.

I see 12 people now.
Only two read books.

A young man boards the tram.
He sits opposite me.
Actually, he is not so young.
He appears to be roughly my age-ish.
He extracts a smart phone.
The phone is so smart, it makes him laugh.
A quiet, quickly self-conscious laugh,
After which, he looks around to see if anyone saw him laughing.
I saw him and he sees me. He sees that I have been seeing.
I smile, to assure him of the benevolence of my observations.
He does not smile at me.
He looks down at his lap, but the corners of his mouth twitch
His jaw moves. His lashes – long, dark lashes – flicker.
He is still laughing but he does not want anyone to know.
I turn my head so that I am
Most Definitely No Longer Looking.

Across the way is a mother and her two daughters
All of them have red hair of differing hues
One of them looks tired and grumpy
And much too grown up to be caught dead
on a trip to town with her mum and her
daggy little sister
She closes her eyes and holds them closed
for ever so slightly too long
Every time her sister says something
“That film was long, wasn’t it,” says mum
Someone murmurs something
But I don’t think it deserves the term ‘reply’.
“Do you think he was hopeless? I thought he was hopeless.”
“Who?” she says, so weary, so adolescent.
“The dad!”
“Oh. Him.”
Her tone ends the conversation.

Opposite me, is a woman in a purple scarf.
Just as I think, what a lovely colour the purple is
And how well it suits
The woman looks up and looks straight into my eyes
I have not had time
to unfocus my gaze and so, I am caught

I smile my, “I’m harmless” smile.
She smiles, too.
I think she knows that
I have been taking note.

It is time to get off the tram.


One Comment

  1. What a lovely observational post. I feel like I’ve been next to you on the tram, quietly noting frowns and surreptitious smiles. I wonder if any of your fellow travelers would like to be reading but get car-sick. That would be me.


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