The alarm rings relentlessly, waiting to be turned off. I do so with regret, knowing that I have to get up and go to work. Barely a sound can be heard outside, except for a few cars passing by my window. My feet finally manage to step out onto the wooden floor of my room. As per usual, I take a shower, have some breakfast and prepare myself to face another tough day at work, where I'll have to get involved in banal conversations with my colleagues on top of all the paperwork. I sigh just thinking about it. About half an hour later, I step out of my small apartment in the center of Madrid, outside of which one can barely distinguish an earthly sound. It's such a cold winter morning, that December is almost tangible. I feel like a ghost, invisible, while I walk the small distance between my home and the subway station, outside of which there is already a homeless gentleman begging for money.
"Good morning," I say politely. He simply responds with an upset grimace when he sees that I won't be giving him any money. I've known him ever since he decided to settle outside my metro station a few months ago. I know he gets enough tips, so I don't really fulfill my duty of goodwill. The door closes behind me, it's metallic handle completely frozen, almost as if the whole door was an ice sculpture. The metal staircase doesn't seem to be working, so I take it as an opportunity to warm myself up by taking the stairs. Once I'm in, I swipe the red card and I enter the station, each move getting me closer to work. For now, however, I'm just waiting for the subway to arrive with a book in hand. Once I sit down on the metallic seat which decorates the tame subway station, I notice that there is nobody near me, though the stop is usually filled with people even at the early hours of the morning. However, the solitude promptly leaves the place once I hear footsteps approaching. I see a woman speaking loudly on her phone. Even though it's freezing out there, she's wearing very light clothes, such as a black, short skirt and a corsé top. I'm guessing she might be visiting a long lost love which she cannot envision as impossible, dressing up so lightly as to declare her desperate love for him, as she frequently does. Or perhaps I'm wrong and she simply likes a more ostentatious look. My doubts are soon answered when I listen to her phone conversation.
"No, it's just that I have so much work, you know? I don't think I can come back home till later," I hear him say through the speaker. She pauses, trying to figure out a way to see him even if it's once more.
"Okay, we can figure something out. I'm guessing next week you won't have that much to do, right?" I'm not able to tell what he says next but, since her tone is somewhat pessimistic I'm guessing she knows it won't happen. "Okay, see you soon then. Love you. Bye."
Almost as if her hanging up the phone was a premonition, I hear the subway approach towards us, with the loud squeak of its wheels over the tracks. The woman, who is now very close to me, smiles as a way to acknowledge me. I simply nod my head, still asleep, while I hold my book in my hand. The vehicle finally stops and, pressing the green button on the door, I step in. Inside there are already a few folks, some distracted with their mobile phones, without even lifting their heads up to observe the newly-arrived. I scan the wagon, in the search for a seat, and I find one, near the back door. No one is next to me, although in front there is this boy speaking to his mother. However, he is ignoring everything she says, distancing the phone from his ear to hear the least as possible. I manage to understand what the problem is: the young lad is not interested in working and is something which seems to frustrate his progenitor. I cannot help but feel upset for the woman, who probably finds herself struggling to maintain her family under a tiny salary. However, it could be completely untrue and simply be part of my imagination. Although I always carry a book around, I usually stop reading fairly quickly as I find guessing the lives of those around me infinitely much more interesting than a few words written on a page. I don't really know why, but imagining their lives appears to be quite pleasant and I always seem to be right.
The conversation ends with an abrupt goodbye from the boy's part. His phone continues to ring a few more times after that, but he ignores it completely. Finally, his mother accepts defeat and stops, plunging the wagon into complete tranquility and letting the boy sleep. Without a job or worries, he closes his eyes and falls into the deepest of dreams. I'm quite surprised that he has woken up this early, although he may be coming home to a disappointed mother after a night of clubbing or partying. Either way, I'm quite disgusted at his laziness. I decide to focus my attention on somebody else. My instincts drive me towards this woman peeling oranges, their smell I really hate. It's acidic and intoxicating. I close my eyes, hoping to find some peace before I have to go to work and I stop bothering to invent stories about those around me. My mind begins wondering about mine and that which I have accomplished. The thoughts begin floating around like ghosts, and I cannot do anything else but let them flow, while I fall into a deep sleep.
A loud noise wakes me up. An almost intelligible voice indicates that we have reached the last stop. I'm looking at some new faces but the woman and the boy remain seated in the same place. I stretch my limbs a little bit and, grabbing my case, I head out. The boy stops me:
"Excuse me, are we there yet?"
"Yes, it's the last stop. You gotta step down son."
"Ugh, I fell asleep," he says.
I laugh on the inside without even wanting to. The fact that he has to get another train back makes me feel good somehow, only for the fact that he's gotten what he deserved: inconvenience.
While he stretches out, I immediately get off the train, not wanting to waste any more time. However, when I step down, I notice something strange, and, seeing that the rest of the passengers are equally quiet, I suppose something is not right. The stop in which we are in is not the same one I step out into every morning. The atmosphere is more humid and, above all, it's not as dark as this one. It looks as if it's escaped a 1940s movie, only missing a black and white colour. I turn around and see confusion in the faces of the rest of the people beside me. The group isn't at all big. I'd say there are around 60 people, most of which have stopped to have a look at this strange place. I suddenly hear the driver step out of the cabin. In seeing him, many run toward him, asking all sorts of questions to which he interrupts them saying:
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" He motions his hands in the air to calm down the crowd. "Relax, please. The subway has suffered a malfunction and will not work. I've tried contacting the main office but there doesn't seem to be any signal. All we can do is wait."
Patience is truly a virtue, though I'd say that only a small portion of human beings have it. And I'm not wrong. People are getting angry at the words mouthed by the driver.
'I'm not gonna wait; I have a job to go to; I have many things to do today...'- a wave of grievances break the silence and incite those who remained inside of the wagon to participate in the public rage.
"I'm sorry, but I can't do much more."
Anger continues and all I can do is to look around. I cannot see much, since only the light coming from inside the train illuminates the station. The place itself is cold and it makes me wrap myself even tighter into my coat. My hands grasp tighter my case. There is barely any sound, except for thousands of tiny drops whose echo enervates anyone. 'What do I do?' 'Where can I go?' Every concern seems to become more desperate by the minute. I decide to silence those who are disrupting the peace by screaming:
"Stop, please!" No one hears me so I put myself in the center and shout again, this time more loudly "Stop!"
Although some individuals continue ranting, I notice that the general attention is now on me; the stranger who seems to have a plan.
"Okay," I say once all eyes are laid on me "There doesn't seem to be any metro close by, so I'm guessing the tracks are a pretty safe option. We'll walk back from where we came."
I can see many agree that is the best idea since many travelers who stayed inside the vehicle are now standing next to me, willing to follow my steps. However, there are still some who see my opinion as another excuse to complain.
"Look," I say, my voice barely indistinguishable from those who do not cease to speak. "Whoever wants to follow me, go ahead. If not, you can wait here a while till someones comes to your rescue. It's up to you."
The majority of people have already descended from the train and many are already heading toward the dark tunnel which awaits us. Even the ostentatious woman and the boy are willing to follow me.