The blink, un ejercicio en inglés
por Alicia Pérez Gil
Nunca había escrito 1.000 palabras en otro idioma. En inglés, vaya, ni que hablar doce. Trabajaré en la versión española de esta historia del metro. Me gusta el concepto. La publico, sobre todo, porque son mis primeras palabras en sajón 🙂
Like many other major cities all over the world, Madrid has it’s own worm hole web. Hundreds of times a day, underground trains cross the city surrounded by the most absolute darkness. It takes some kind of faith to get in one of them, knowing there will only be light every two or three minutes, when the worm-train arrives to the next station. Gina has always thought that is the way the tube blinks. She has always thought, also, that when one blinks, life stops. Somehow, when she closes her eyes, she is never sure of what she will find the moment she opens them. That is why, she presumes, blinking is a reflex; a very rapid lid movement that one cannot control. But the tube blinking is not so quick. Two minutes, three in some cases, even four if the stations are too far away from each other, give people time to fear. To fear what they will find when the light comes back.
It´s fear, and nothing else, not manners, or good feelings, or sympathy for your seat neighbour, what determines people´s actions and reactions while in the trains. Some of them read, which is the same as saying that they choose to be somewhere else, somewhere where the sun shines and life does not stop. Others listen to music and concentrate on the lyrics. This is an easy way of connecting with emotions, and emotions tend to make people feel alive. Others, the majority of the travelers, including Gina, pretend not to look at the others when they are actually examining every single little detail of them.
This morning Gina’s train is packed. She has managed to seat down between a nun (it is very strange to find a real nun, but there she is, dressed on her black habit, low eyes and all) and a woman who looks like she works in an office. In front of them there are people who don´t take much care about their shoes. Gina finds this somehow despicable. Shoes are the base of everything else. You cannot build anything on a pair of dirty shoes (dirty, old fashioned, ugly, worn out). The man in the middle wears trainers. A pair of Chuck Tailors, once white, that make Gina look at her own high heeled sandals. She feels relieved when she checks that they are spotless.
The train arrives to the next station and life comes back. Readers take their eyes out of their books and breathe because the name of the station is the same as every morning. They pretend they don´t want to get passed their stop, but the truth is that they are glad that life goes on. They congratulate themselves because the blink hasn´t been definitive.
An old woman enters the train. She looks fragile, probably because of her thin body covered with a thin coat. Her grey hair is straight and clean, her clothes are very well ironed but she smells like a hospital. An intricate map of wrinkles deforms her face when she smiles at nobody in particular, and it is that smile what turns the whole tube trip into a ritual.
The first act starts with the man in trainers. He stands up, smiles at the old lady (he doesn´t smile back because the woman had not smiled at him. We could say that his smile is the first smile in this dialogue. In fact, we could state that he smiles, as if under some sort of spell).
—Take my seat, please.
The thin old woman and the thin coat take their hospital perfume to the man´s seat, now free and, once she´s sat down, a second man stands.
—Hey, mate! , seat here. I leave in a couple of stops.
The third person involved, a teenager who plays Candy Crush, just taps someone else´s shoulder and points at her seat with the chin. The gesture is understood and the wave goes on.
It´s Gina´s turn, but Gina remains seated. She takes a glance at her sandals and calculates how many stations are left until hers: no less than 12 and then a long working day at the shop. It might have been a wrong shoe choice, buy she´s not going to make it even worse by spending an extra half hour standing up in a rocky train.
Everybody stares at her.
Someone clears his throat.
A cough sounds at the end of the carriage.
Gina pretends not to notice.
The energy of the coach has changed in such a way that we could say it is a completely different train. People are not polite any more. They are not interested in being nice. They have forgotten about the old lady who smelled like some kind of illness. They only want Gina to give her seat up to the office woman so the nun can give hers up to Gina. That would be a way for life to keep constant even during the blink.
But Gina is not cooperating.
And her train neighbours are just about to act like every single crowd all over the world throughout history. They are only waiting for the first comment, the firs spark to light the fire. Because fire burns well in the dark.
The nun raises her look and there is not even a trace of goodness in it. Gina looks back at her, willing to take anything the abbes might say; any reproval, any admonishment, any quote from the bible. But she is not prepared for what happens: the nun points at her with a bony finger and yells. All the demons in hell seem to have worked together as the evilest of choruses, so the yell sounds as this one does.
The other passengers take it as a starting signal and leave their seats. All but the old smelly lady, who has apparently fallen asleep. Gina shrinks, trying to adopt anything similar to a fetal position.
And the train arrives to the next station, the light floods the carriage, the sliding doors open and people leave in a hurry just at the same time that new people fill the coach up again. Some of them read, some others listen to music, most of them look at the others.
Gina has survived this time, this blink.