The stagnant air crept by and as I held my breath long enough to position myself as narrowly as I could, the man next to me refused to budge. Not an inch. The cloud of rancid vapours seemed to infuse the area around me and I’m sure everyone in the area.
‘Move over!’ I willed him but received no feedback.
The stale, damp smell of his clothes was putrid. The sourness made me silently gag and as I re-positioned myself on a slight angle, so that my breathing space was remotely out of alignment with his, I noticed another passenger.
With my hand cocked up to my face, shielding me from ‘Mr Smelly’, the lady sitting diagonally opposite me chewed vigorously on what looked like a boiled lolly, staring curiously at me. I shifted my gaze away from her to the window, noticing that we had only passed one station. The change in position meant that I had turned my head into the abyss of stench and Mr Smelly.
Quickly holding my breath, I turned back around on the angle that made it possible to breathe freely. Phew! To my surprise, she had changed her focus to another unsuspecting passenger.
Her rather large frame spilled over the imaginary halfway point of the seat and to the man next to her, who in comparison appeared half her size, pale and intent on reading the IT section of the newspaper. As she barked a loud cough and brought her padded hand to her mouth, the sound of loose phlegm resided in her throat.
The boiled lolly appeared numerous times to me as she swirled it around her ample mouth, unperturbed by the sound that her saliva made juxtaposed to the clanging of her teeth on the hard candy.
‘Hmmm, boiled lolly and phlegm.’ I surmised.
Her lipstick had bled the scarlet colour they were stained around the lines of her upper lip and the laugh line of her round face. Her lolly swilling was quite a procedure as she twirled her tongue and hooked it around. I looked at her neck jiggling and wondered where her chin had disappeared to. Her brightly coloured nails matched the loose-fitting top that bore the initials ‘C. B’.
My mind did a quick run through of all names that C.B could stand for.
The train stopped, yet no-one disembarked. A young pretty girl hopped on and stood cautiously, holding on to her handbag and railing. Her eyes sweeping over the array of passengers with a look that told me she had not travelled by train often. The jolt of each turn and bump threw her off balance as her knuckles became white from holding so tightly. I couldn’t help notice her shapely legs, gripping for dear life in the ridiculously high black stilettos.
My focus returned involuntarily back to the lolly lady. I noticed her extremely bushy brown eyebrows and matching unruly hair, still damp on the ends.
‘She had time to apply her make-up, but not dry her hair?’ I thought.
Then it hit me. Chewbacca. C. B.
The thought brought an inner smile and she caught my eye, as I was somewhat mesmerised as if I was caught doing something very wrong, I dutifully checked my cell phone to cover up my amusement. Scouring the apps and settling on reading the latest on my Facebook news feed, I became aware in my peripheral vision that Ms Chewbacca was looking at me.
Holding my cell phone and seemingly scrolling down, I could tell her gaze was intensifying. There was no reprieve. Then Mr Smelly shifted in his seat, causing a wave of sour stench to permeate through the airspace. I momentarily stopped myself from heaving, shifting in the confined space. I needed to address the lolly lady. It seemed she was enjoying making me feel ill at ease by her incessant swirling.
Boldly looking her way, I caught her gaze, eye to eye. She stopped the swirling and just looked at me as if it was a standoff. I couldn’t maintain the stare and so I turned my head to the young girl, not really noticing her, but paying attention to my peripheral vision of the lolly lady or Chewbacca as I envisioned her. I casually browsed my cell phone, this time my emails vied for my attention.
Still her lolly swirling continued. The small framed IT newspaper reading man next to her shifted and I could see him surveying the decreasing area around him. His space had surmounted to a small patch, barely able to contain his small legs and laptop bag.
Still, he kept his focus committed to the newspaper, seemingly unperturbed by the lolly lady and her antics.
I continued to browse the many emails that cluttered my phone until the interruption of a loud voice, clearly talking on a phone in an American accent.
‘Sure, that’ll be fine. I’ll pick it up just as soon as I get the car. What? No, that’ll be Candy’s. If you want mine, then you’ll have to wait.’
‘Yeah, wait. Pftt’ I thought impatiently.
My left hip became increasingly numb from leaning away from Mr Smelly, so I shifted in my narrow space, holding my breath and hoping that the movement wouldn’t cause an influx of putrid smells to invade my nasal cavity.
The loud voice continued. I turned my head slightly, not wanting to bring unwanted attention from the lolly lady and I found the culprit on his phone.
A 60 something male, balding with a ponytail.
‘Typical’, I thought. He obviously couldn’t manage to let go of his ponytail even though the best years of his hair had vanished. ‘Let it Go’ I said silently as I focussed on my emails once again ‘Just let it go man’.
The pretty girl looked pensive, surveying the carriage and each station that passed by. She was obviously worried that she would miss her stop. ‘Man her legs are sexy,’ I thought. The curve of her calf accentuated by the tan made her legs look like liquid silk. This pleasant sight was very welcome as I gravitated to her legs, each time she flexed her legs to find her balance I could see how toned they were, disappearing under the black and white geometric dress that she wore.
As if jolted to reality, a sudden movement from Mr Smelly brought my senses into gear and I was catapulted into the here and now of this overcrowded, smelly and disgusting train carriage.
Mr Smelly was moving. He bent forward picking up an old Gear n Stuff bag that looked like it had been washed down the sewer. As he plonked it on his lap, I gasped as a whoosh of putridity invaded my space and nostrils into a state that they had never experienced before.
Mr Smelly was on the move. His jacket brushed against me, his leg slightly bumping my knee even though my best efforts of shifting to the far left of the narrow seat were put into place.
Mr Smelly stood up. His bag now half open, and in a quick glimpse I saw an old 1970’s Parramatta Eels t-shirt appeared crumpled in a ball along with a banana and something un-recognisable wrapped in a brown paper bag. I assumed it might have been a sandwich.
Mr Smelly squeezed past me as I brought my legs right over to the aisle in a flash. Turning my head away, but keeping an eye on him passing by.
A sense of relief washed over me. The seat in which he sat lay empty, but still I felt the remnants of Mr Smelly lingering. His smell was just barely there and now as I stretched ever so slightly, using up some of the room for my bag, Ms Lolly began rummaging through her gigantic handbag. For what, who knew? I just hoped that I would be out of this carriage before it emerged.
I took a deep breath, the first one since sitting next to Mr Smelly and shallow breathing on an angle for the best part of 40 minutes.
Glancing at my watch I noticed that I had roughly 5 minutes before my stop. What a relief that was, until a Mr Greasy who sat down next to me and proceeded to pick his nose invaded yet another course of this daily journey…
© Gillian Du Caurroy 2016