The Ticket Man

Notice: the hiss of compression as the doors close, the awkward expressions of the passengers as the people who file in looking for non-existent seats realise they are going to have to stand squashed up against each other; invading personal space. He notices this, how can he not; every day he paces up and down the aisle: “Ticket please” blank expression “do you have a ticket please?”. Monotonous; his life feels vacuous but he confides in no one. He clings to his ticket machine as a baby clings to their rattle; it brings him power, respect and authority. People notice him as he ambles past them; they rummage in their bags for their tickets and anticipate his next move. He is a hunter, a predator; no one slips under his radar.

The train is now arriving at its destination. All change please, all change.

But he doesn’t change; he waits for the train to take its next journey, for a new hunt to begin. He sorts the ticket money into piles, counting carefully to make sure he has received the correct amount. Hunched over a small desk in the driver’s room he sits staring blankly at the ticket machines screen, his eyes not moving; fixated. He wants more, he doesn’t want to be noticed for the machine that hangs from his neck or the jangling of change in his pocket as he passes the passengers; day in, day out. He pines for acceptance in society, he feels he doesn’t truly blend in; no one would realise if the ticket man was not on the train that day, in fact they may even be glad. This stresses him, the idea that when it comes down to it he doesn’t make a positive difference by existing; merely annoys people, hassles them for their earned living just so he can receive his.

The job has aged him, wearied him; he no longer looks forty-five but sixty–two, with his short greying hair and his curled shoulders. He appears vulnerable, insecure and anxious. Was it the lighting on the train which gave him those bags under his eyes, or the fact he hadn’t slept last night?

Today he walks with a self-assured look about him which the usual passengers have not noticed before. His back appears straighter; his eyes brighter and voice clearer. Friday morning, they should have guessed, it means he no longer has to worry about early mornings and late nights; weekends are free from all these anxieties. The only thing that weighted his shoulders, ever so slightly, was the fact that he would be perpetually alone.

Every Saturday he performs the same routine: wake up, stretch himself out across the bed, yawn, yawn again, open his eyes, shut his eyes, open them while yawning, attempt to sit up, fail, lie there until his self-pity reaches optimum level and this is when he’ll finally pry himself from between the empty covers and make his way to the kitchen. It wasn’t as if he intentionally dwelled on thoughts of his solitude, no, the feeling of loneliness just consumed him; when he awoke on these mornings of freedom his bed sheets felt cold and his body remained raw of emotion. Would he ever become entirely self-sufficient or would he really always depend on this want of companionship which ails him daily?

The train begins to move, another journey has begun; one which will occupy his devoid reflections. Time to perform his customary exploits on his anticipating victims. He adjusts his uniform, hooks a pen in his top pocket, tightens the strap on his ticket machine so it sits just above his hip bone (this means he can rest it there when awards the passengers with their tickets), and opens the door. Strolling down the aisle with a feeling of self-satisfaction he beings his practice.

“Tickets please.” He can be heard by each passenger in the carriage and as they scurry to produce their tickets or present him with the correct money to purchase one.

“All tickets please.” He repeats as he moves slowly down the aisle observing each passenger individually.

The awkward expressions, the compression of the doors, the shortage of seats; he sees it all every day and never says anything.


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