I catch the train in the morning and I sit there with a big set on cans on my ears listening to music or an audiobook. I’ll watch as people get on and off the train and slowly fill the nearer we get to the city. I won’t take any more than an idle interest in my fellow passengers generally except when one has to climb over me, or if a pretty one comes my way. I’ll get off at Richmond where I’ll change trains for one travelling through the loop. There are two stops for me and I’ll stand for that short journey before getting off at Melbourne Central and walking up the moving escalator heading towards work.
There are all sorts on the train. Most are heading to work, but even so there is a great variation between types, young and old, male and female, corporate and not so corporate and students and the odd character with a bit more attitude than most. There are always a few callow types heading in towards what must be one of their first jobs. My eyes pass over them, as they do for others, except today for reasons unknown I found my eyes lingering on a man getting off the train ahead of me at Richmond.
I say man, but boy seems a better descriptor. He can’t have been much older than 18, average height and slight of frame, wearing an acceptable suit worn that he didn’t quite inhabit yet, with a fresh and open face.
Was I like that? I wondered. That’s some years ago and in my first job I caught the train at Montmorency when they were still red rattlers, and got off at Victoria Park. I worked in the back streets of Collingwood as a computer operator. In those days being a computer operator meant working on an IBM 360 mainframe. I swapped tapes and loaded up printers and fed JCL cards I’d coded in Assembler into the system. I remember when I got the job I went shopping with my mum for a set of clothes I could wear to work – more smart casual than corporate.
I imagine I was just as callow as the boy I saw on the train today. I was tall, which gave me some presence, but pretty lean. I was probably just as fresh-faced, but I was also a bit cheeky. I was dressed well – my mum always had high standards – and given it was just smart casual I probably got away with it.
It’s a while back, but as I recall it all comes back to me vividly. It’s like a cabinet drawer I haven’t open for a while, but when I do everything is just as fresh as the day I closed it. I dwell quite regularly on memories and things from back in the day, but I think a big part of that is the fascination observing the thread of time. We live in a moment, which leads on to the next and the next after that, and so on. We imagine and may even fantasise about the future, but have no real idea of what it holds for us. Looking back you have the benefit of knowing how the dominoes fell. Sometimes you can see the cause and effect that was invisible to you then. Even after all these years you witness rich and vivid memories neglected for a while, but recalled now fresh and new. You cherish them whilst feeling a sense of wonder. That was my life. I did that. And finally: how is it past?
There’s a grand journey in life’s twists and turns. There’s some melancholy remembering that special moments are transient – but at least you have the memory of them. Then there are the people that have come into and out of your life. All this has made you the person you are now. All of these things are ahead of that boy on the train.
It’s very different now. I’ve come a long way from the fresh-faced kid I was. If you were to see me on the train I’m a very different man. I’ll be one of the more stylishly put together, and by all reports exude self-possession. The boy that was me yesteryear might have been intimidated by the man I’ve become, and I’m not sure what to make of that.