Railroad Perfection – #23

Sam – Laziness, I suppose.  But I don’t want to romanticise it, or try and spin what is clearly a weakness into a kind of noble strength.  Nope, it’s just laziness, nothing more.

Felicia – Such an odd thing to say.  Can’t you just be happy?  For us?

Sam – I’m happy but critical.

Felicia – Happy but critical?

Sam – Yes.  I should have done this years ago.  I don’t know why it took me so long.  I’ve thought about that, and –

Felicia – Yes?

Sam – Well, every answer I come up with falls back into the trap I mentioned before.  Romanticising.  Glorifying the act of waiting, of vacillation, of indecisiveness.  And I just don’t want to do that.

Felicia – You certainly talk about it a lot for someone who is trying to avoid the idea.

Sam – Cute. Wait, why are we inching toward a fight?  Today of all days?

Felicia – I don’t know.  Habit.  I guess?  It’s pretty poor of us.  I’m sorry, Sam.

Sam – I’m sorry.

Felicia – I’m glad we.  Well.  It’s still weird to say, but I’m happy that you asked, and –

Sam – Yes.  Me too, yes.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #22

Holly – And I would say to everyone that it was going to happen, and when it didn’t I just hoped they would forget I said anything.  And it would build in me and I would think about it all of the time, and weeks would pass, and I’d look back, and think, my god, it was three weeks ago.  What happened?

Jean – What happened?

Holly – Nothing.  I don’t know.  Time went by.

Jean – You’ve heard that promises are made to be broken?

Holly – I’ve heard it, but that doesn’t mean –

Jean – But you’ve heard it?

Holly – Yes.

Jean – I promise things to myself all of the time, and I break them every day.  It’s easy.  Shouldn’t be.  But none of this is new or interesting.  What I am saying to you, Holly, is – so what?

Holly – What?  What do you mean, so what?

Jean – So what, you say things and they don’t happen.  Laziness is easy to forgive.  A lack of ambition is easy to forgive.  So what and so what.

Holly – I didn’t realise –

Jean – No.

Holly – Jean –

Holly – No.  Holly, no.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #21

Victor – I didn’t want to.  I don’t know.  I never dreamed I would be a taxi driver.  It’s not something people aspire to.  But I became one, and you know what, I pretty much loved it right off the bat.  Absolutely so.  I know I was putting off life when I started – the dreams I had! – but after a while I settled in and realised that my dreams had changed.

Georges – For the better?

Victor – For the different.  Easy as that.  I thought I was a complex man but in reality I am a simple man.  Wait.  Stop.  I don’t mean to say that taxi drivers are simple.  I’m getting muddled.  What I mean is that I thought I wanted a life of the mind.  And I had it, for a while.  I still have a hard-bound copy of my PhD thesis.  It contrasts the pacifist writings of Rolland, Tagore, Russell and Hesse against the popular and prevailing tendency of the mainstream press and public intellectuals to rabidly welcome the onset of war.  I think I did some really good work.  Even now, listening to Beethoven takes me back to those endless nights of research and reading and annotating.  I listened to nothing but Beethoven while I studied, primarily because of Rolland’s connection to the writer, and my connection to him.  But it’s all gone.  Not Rolland – he speaks to my intellect and my soul in a manner which has never been equalled or approached by any other writer – but the need to operate in that sphere.  That’s gone.  Instead, I want to enjoy the fruits of other people’s minds, and to use my hands and feet and body to make a living.  So, I drive taxis.  I talk to people.  I open doors for ladies and I pour drunks out of the back seat.  I make cabinets on the weekend, and I sell them for a small amount.  I restore furniture.  And I’m happier than I have ever been.

Georges – For a long time I played the cello.  I still do, but not as much.  I was very good.  Very good.  I wanted to play in front of kings and presidents, and it seemed that for a short time I might have even been good enough for that.  I wanted my work to be discussed in newspapers, and my name to be known.  God help me, it almost happened, and that ‘almost’ haunts me.  Now?  I busk.  And nobody cares.  And I live on the edge of financial ruin at all times, and I am so egotistical that because I cannot command presidents or kings in my audience, then I will not perform for anyone but the common man, for free, or for what they will offer me.

Victor – And it’s glorious?

Georges – Oh, yes.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Site Note – Due to circumstances outside of my control (Thanks, TPG!), I was without internet for several weeks.  I apologise, and the posts will resume from today.

Railroad Perfection – #20

Jacques – I read a book last week –

André – Well done!

Jacques – Funny.  Yes.  And it posited that London never existed, that the photos, videos, recollections, songs, paintings, and so on were not forgeries, exactly, but clever subterfuges from other cities stitched together to create an entirely fictional place.

André – Seems beyond fishy to me.

Jacques – I know.

André – And you read the whole thing?

Jacques – Sure.  It was small, maybe 100 pages.  I was bored at a café, and I found it wedged between a Jodi Picoult novel and an old copy of Shantaram.  His primary idea was that humanity, though capable of murder, rape and exploitation, was nevertheless unable to completely annihilate an entire city.  Said it couldn’t be done “without the tears of God falling like lava upon us for our sins”.

André – So, the book was religious?  A fundamentalist thing?

Jacques – Not exactly.  Every time it was clear that he had argued himself into a hole, he would bring up God and explain away the problem.  But otherwise, no.  Pretty weak reasoning, obviously, but I liked the idea of God having tears of lava.

André – It’s a nice image.

Jacques.  Yes.  He thought that clever French dramatists were primarily responsible for the faked images, and that the Germans and the Poles had collaborated to create the videos.  All of the other stuff was a by-product of “persuasive creativity” and, he said, spoke positively of humanity’s ability to create fanciful and wonderful things.

André – I’ve been to London.  A long time ago now.  I was eleven. I don’t remember much, but I do remember holding my father’s hand while I ate an ice cream.

Jacques – All fake, according to this fellow.  Subtly implanted by the French.

André – I have a memory of eating the ice cream and watching those red uniform wearing guards, the ones with the black plume hats.  But I’m sure that part, at least, isn’t true, because I mentioned that to my father once and he said we didn’t see anything like that.

Jacques – Blame the French!

André – And the Germans, and the Poles.  I suppose it could be true.  Memory is pretty fickle, and I’ve forgotten so much.  But I doubt it.

Jacques – Yes.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #19

Trent – Let me just say – I need to say it – that I wasn’t sure I would agree to this and come along.  I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen, but I sort of assumed that it wasn’t really necessary, that we had said all that needed to be said, and that whatever you thought this might achieve, it probably wouldn’t.

Claire – And?  And now, that you are here?

Trent – Look outside.  The trees rush by.  Sometimes I think I can relax my eyes and slow down the trees until I can see each one individually.  And behind them, mountains.  I’ve never seen a mountain.  Not a real one, just hills we like to flatter with grandiose names.  I made the right choice.  I want to be here, with you, seeing this together.

Claire – But that’s not enough.

Trent – No, I know.

Claire – The smell in the morning, and the smells in the evening, just as it becomes dark, it reminds me of your brother’s wedding.

Trent – Don’t.

Trent – Which smells?

Claire – The smell of.  Well, to me it smells like potential and excitement, but really what I am smelling is crispness and, in the evening, wood chips and smoke.  It always reminds me of his wedding.

Trent – I still haven’t decided if we should go.

Claire – Trent, we’re here.  We might never be here again.

Trent – But I don’t. It’s hardly meaningful, is it?  It’s just one enormous monument.  He isn’t there, not really, and neither is Anna.  It’d just be for me if I went.

Claire – No.  Perhaps.  I’m not really sure.  They died here, but they aren’t here, or anywhere really.  It’s so strange to think that they have completely gone, that everyone who died was just – vaporised, I guess.  It’s like a science fiction.

Trent – I just don’t know.  We’re so close.  I watch the trees go by, I relax my eyes and it seems like everything is moving slower, and I just don’t know.  What if I choose wrong?

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #18

Patience – Oh, no, it wasn’t like that at all.  But I can see your side of things.  It’s less about the order of events and more about my – your – perception of it.  I don’t much care for numbers, or solvable things, but I do like to understand why someone does what they do.  Myself included.  And I’m never really sure, but I try to understand.  And myself included there, too.

Harmony – It’s funny how Dad always wanted to answer for everything.  Or not an answer, but the answer.  The pure essence of what an answer could be, distilled into as few words as possible.  Whatever it was needed to be exactly explained, its circumference perfectly circumscribed, or else it was all nothing.  I know I must have driven him mad.

Patience – Until –

Harmony – Until Mum died.  Of course.  Obviously.  He’s changed.  So much.  He talks to me now with these big sad eyes, blue eyes, and he looks so down, even when he’s happy, and even when things are good, and I just don’t know what to say.

Patience – For him, it was a permanent darkening.

Harmony – He told me once that all of the colour had leeched out of everything, and that music no longer made sense to him, as though he couldn’t connect the beat to the rhythm, and that all food was like dust.  He would never have said anything like that ten years ago.

Patience – I never felt like that.  Never.  I was sad.  Of course.  Obviously.  But I never.  I think perhaps that we are primed from birth to expect that our parents will die, that they’ll go first.  They have to be pushed aside to make room for us, their children.  That’s why they had us in the first place.  And we know they need to make space.  It’s suffocating, when they aren’t dead.  Sometimes.

Harmony – I have a little yellow scarf that she gave me.  I don’t wear it.  It’s somewhere.  Somewhere.  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure I never threw it out.  And he asked about it, not two weeks ago, asked me if I had it and knew where it was.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #17

Anton – Go on.

Sandra – But that’s really it.  There’s no more to it.

Anton – That’s all you can say?  I say all of that, and you have no response?

Sandra – I did respond.  I agree with you.  I agree with everything.  What else can I say?

Anton – But, I just.  I don’t understand how I can talk for all of that time and you say so little back.

Sandra – I don’t know what you want from me.  You say things.  I listen, and I think about it, and I process your words.  And then I agree.  Sometimes I don’t, but this time I do.  I’ve thought about it and, Anton, you are right.

Anton – I suppose from my perspective I want to hear the reasoning.  The thoughts.  Not just the final outcome.

Sandra – I’ve never.  Sometimes when I think about something.  No.  Let me try.  Often when I think about something I don’t really think about the topic, or the arguments, or the words.  I think in colours.  I let colour wash over me, and whatever feels right is what I go with.  Blue is the colour of agreement.  Or at least it feels like blue.  It’s also the colour of sadness.  Memory.  Forgiveness.  Yesterday.  Regret.  Confidence.  I love blue.  I felt blue wash over me, and then I agreed with you.  Blue how I love you blue.

Anton – Paz?

Sandra – No, Anton.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #16

Gerald – I don’t know what I am going to see when I get there, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to handle it.

Sonya – He’s still our son.

Gerald – No, I know, but.  I’ve never.  When I was very little we had a neighbour, Mr Smythe, and he was missing an arm, his left.  All of his shirts were pinned up on the left side, all of them, and as he didn’t have a wife or family I knew that he must have done it himself.  And I remember thinking how sad that must have been, to take a good shirt and pin up one of the arms because you knew it would never be used.  I would say that to myself when he walked by, never ever ever ever will I use me left arm, and I’d imagine the voice of a troll, even though Mr Smythe was unfailingly cheerful and polite.  And I think he liked me and my family, because he was always talking to mum and dad, and every birthday he sent me a card, by the post, even though he lived next door.  I’ve kept them.  But.  I couldn’t get that troll voice out of my mind, and I could never stop staring at the pinned up shirt arm.

Sonya – Your son is still your son.  He’s not a troll, or anything.  He’s just himself.

Gerald – Yes, but I worry that my inside self won’t see that, and that while I will be all smiles on the outside, what will I think on the inside?

Sonya – We can pretend, dear.  I’m worried, too.  I am.  I remember the first time he was sick, really ill I mean, and I didn’t know what to do, and nothing helped, and he was screaming and crying and unable to help himself.  And I hated him for a while, then, but it wasn’t his fault.  I don’t want to hate him now, either.  And it’s not his fault.

Gerald.  No.  No.  No.  Our poor boy.  Poor, poor boy.  I can’t imagine he is looking forward to seeing us, either.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #15

Bert – And then there was Tracy.  Came out of nowhere.  Everyone was on the piss, see, cause it was Christmas Eve.  Why wouldn’t they be?  Mate of mine, he had a baby girl, one month old, and two little boys, shorter than shrimps.  He ripped the mattress of his missus’ bed, you know those big heavy ones with the inner spring, and he carried it over to protect them.  Couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.  Suddenly the mattress just flew out of his hands and up and away.  The roof was long gone, see, and everything was saturated.

Damian – Yes.  It’s amazing, isn’t it, the force –

Bert – And everything was flattened.  Nothing was standing.  The boys were fine but they couldn’t find the little girl.  Where do you even start looking?  The whole city was destroyed.  My mate, he checked everywhere.  Said it was all horrible.  See, they had these metal sheet roofs and the cyclone just picked the roof right up and spun them around.  You couldn’t avoid it.  They’d tear people in two as easy as that.  Just go through them.  Anyway, couple of days later they found her.  She was up in a tree, could you believe it?  She’d been, she was impaled on a branch, straight through her chest.  Just like that.  Tiny thing.  No hope.  That’s what happened to my mate.

Damian – That poor girl.  I’m sorry for your friend.

Bert – He’s a good bloke.  Still around.  Still talks about it.  His missus ain’t around any more, but he is.  The boys, they drive trucks up from Adelaide right through to Darwin.  Big three trailer monsters.  Too much goey if you ask me, but they do a good job.  Their eyes are like lasers at the end of a shift.  It’s not good for them.  I can’t talk, I’ve been trucking longer than them.  Sick of it, though.  Hours are too long, it’s too lonely.  I’m an old fellow now, I can’t be by myself forever.  I need something.  Not a sheila.  Nothing like that.  A place of my own.  And then there’s business in England.  I’m too old for that.  Wish I wasn’t.  The boys I was telling you about, they are too old.  They aren’t really boys now, they’d be forty if they were a day.  All too old.  But you?  You’re young.  What do you think?

Damian – My wife and I are going to London soon.  It’ll blow over.  It always does.  I’d like to say, in a way I wish I was Orwell and it was the Spanish Civil War, but it isn’t, and I’m not.  It’s just a holiday.  But we’ll be there.

Bert – Orwell?

Damian – A writer.

Bert – Never much got into writers.  I think they can be smart little buggers, but I wonder if they are putting one over me.

Damian – Oh, I suspect that they –

Bert – But you’re going there?  You’ll be in England?  I wish I was your age.  I wish I could see it.

Damian – There won’t be anything to see.

Bert – Yeah.  We didn’t pay attention when they told us about Tracy, neither.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series

Railroad Perfection – #14

Thomas – I can’t always be clear on what I mean, I’ve come to realise that.  Certain types of communication rely on obfuscation to best convey what is being said.  I can’t abide Hemingway.  I can’t stand realism.  I can’t watch television because everything is too literal.  It’s like a dream – nobody expects a straight forward interpretation, rather they want ambiguity and the ability to interpret for themselves.  So why can’t everything else be like that?  Why do we need an answer?  Why do we need metrics?  If something can be measured then isn’t it by definition incapable of being a work of genius?  Measurements imply that something has come before by which to provide a control, a measuring stick, and genius allows for no parents.  I want someone to take my life – which is my work – and my work – which is my life – and come away from it awed, unsure, exhilarated and confused.  For some reason whenever I say these things I call to mind a butcher preparing a bloody carcass and the eventual cuts of meats they create.  Does it fit?  Probably not.  But I can’t shake it.  I imagine a butcher, young, somewhat inexperienced, as they push the carcass this way and that, and then they slice.  And then they carve.  Nothing is wasted.  Meat goes into a bucket, bones and fat goes into buckets.  Offal goes into a bucket.  All will be useful in some way.  The butcher doesn’t know how, exactly, they aren’t responsible for what someone does with the constituent parts, the butcher’s responsibility is to do the best job they can and to fill those buckets.  The question I ask myself, the way to tie it in is, who am I in all of this?  What I am about?  Am I the butcher or the meat?  And I don’t know.  But I have to think about it.  I can’t be pure, and I can’t engage in perfect exercises designed to show mastery of some small facet.  I have to be everything.

Philip – You’re the meat, but you wish you were the butcher.

Part of the Railroad Perfection series