All Aboard The Yellow Line
Updated: May 12, 2019
Like a subterranean airport.
I arrived at a crowded metro station,
Moncloa, bus terminal and metro,
The last stop on the Yellow Line.
My destination La Latina, via Callao.
A few short stops on a Friday evening.
Relaxed and unstressed, the same could
not be said for everyone,
A woman, maybe African, maybe Spanish, bore the world on her shoulders.
I pay closer attention to how people say something then what they say.
The body language hidden behind the smile.
The yawn, distracted glaze and in this case,
The tension in her face.
She wore misery, no mask could hide.
Her eyes had been crying,
I have no reason why.
Had she been fired, lost a child, received terminal news.
Maybe all three, her grief was unreal.
Few noticed her but she stood out from the crowd.
Waiting for the Yellow Line, I looked at the time,
8 minutes to go, the monitor counting down,
The arrival of our train, last stop Moncloa.
This dark faced lady, distraught with rage,
I couldn´t even tell her age,
Mother or grandmother,
Cheeks hollow, like a mummy,
had hope left her behind?
I wondered as I stood on the terminal.
Was it terminal?
Rude but I wanted to take a photograph,
Immortalize that look, that deep pain,
Written across her harrowed face.
That genuine agony, her face ready to implode
She stood out from the crowd.
What financial worries, human trafficking, death or disease
Could destroy a person´s appearance?
She really stood out from the crowd.
All alone and undisturbed,
The crowd thickened and she still stood out from the crowd.
Wait, she was physically standing out from the crowd.
Passed the Yellow Line´s yellow line.
Time to save a life I thought as a donned my imaginary cape,
Hovering near by, I looked at the monitor,
4 minutes to go, a mere 240 seconds left
I couldn´t talk to her with my lousy Spanish
Or startle her with English,
I guess sometime we don´t always have the words we need.
The communication skills to say Help, Ayuda
or can I help you?
This train would be late. If I couldn´t postpone her faith.
I had to make sure she missed her train
Her last stop on the Yellow Line,
Standing on the platform, ready to die,
Why was she saying goodbye?
I had to grab her as the train pulled in,
Pull her back behind the yellow line,
As soon as she moved, I had to move quicker
Lightening reflexes to pull her back without drawing me in.
Less than 200 seconds, 3 minutes and counting.
I stood nearer and nearer,
trying to prepare myself for what I had to do
If I saved her
it would be momentarily
for there are other trains,
other platforms and other days
I could only postpone her faith,
Moncloa has other platforms,
There would be other trains on other days,
other count downs and other ignorant crowds
An unassuming lady stepped out from the crowd,
She put her hands on the woman´s shoulders
And comforted her behind the Yellow Line´s yellow line.
Gentleness is the ultimate strength and this lady,
Saved a life in the blink of an eye,
No one else saw what I saw.
The near death of a woman,
And the touch of an angel.
I wished I could congratulate or thank the old lady,
Our train arrived on time and the woman was still alive.
11th of November 2012
All Aboard The Yellow Line
This is a story about being voiceless in a foreign country, a story of life and death and the sad realisation that nobody else even noticed what was happening and what could have happened.
What I saw on a busy Friday afternoon inspired me to write a poem called, The Yellow Line, I've never shown anyone the poem because of the seriousness of writing about suicide and the dark side but this is the tale of The Yellow Line, I hope you enjoy.
Did you ever read a face and know they were lying? Ever have a friend who said they were fine through gritted teeth. Ever smell bull droppings from the lips of politicians, priests and parents?
26 letters make up a ton of words but do we accurately convey what we want to say?
Standing on a platform waiting for a Madrid metro, I wanted to reach out and talk to the woman standing on her own. Her face was distraught. She was probably in a panic or off her medication.
I couldn´t even tell you where she was from or how old she was because her face had caved in on itself through her anguish, I presume African and think she was a mother or grandmother.
I don´t know if her husband left her or if she had received terminal news, did her children die or did she lose her house to some shitty bank?
All I know is, she stood out from the crowd, I try to read faces, sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.
A class of children once asked me why I am always smiling and I thought to myself, it´s all lies.
Ireland´s economic downturn had forced me to leave my friends and family behind, to sell my beloved Alfa Romeo and to move to a country where I couldn´t speak the language. I was struggling financially and after dating a Welsh girl for a few months, I had just been dumped.
It made me wonder, why was I always smiling?
As an English teacher, I find a smile and good humour makes learning easier for young children, the world is better with a smile after all.
I guess a smile is cheap yet a useful resource and probably all I could afford.
Somewhat more perceptive then my 8-year-old class, I could see pain on this lady's face, her dark aged face, heavily wrinkled and about to implode.
She really stood out from the crowd, I wished I could photograph such genuine agony, what an amazing photograph it would make but without a telephoto lens, kinda rude to look so closely at someone's pain and try to immortalise their anguish.
Her harrowed face, focused on dark thoughts, she really stood out from the crowd and yet the crowd didn't see the horror written across her brow. She was just another Yellow Line commuter, heading to Sol from Moncloa, another person to push past in a city of six million.
I could see her, I could recognise the fears and pain she wore, I wished I could talk to her, Habla Ingles? no a difficult conversation with a distressed person. She really stood out from the crowd.
Oh my god, she was actually standing out from the crowd. She was the only one standing in front of the yellow line, waiting for the train as it pulled into Moncloa, the last stop.
This ever vigilant lifeguard, sensing distress. I didn´t need an eight-foot caped man standing next to her holding a sigh to realise she was going to die.
I looked at the monitor, the train would be here in 4 minutes. I had 4 minutes to save her life. I knew I couldn´t talk to her with my terrible Spanish or frighten her speaking English. She needed help and no one else had seen it written on her face.
I hovered around her and watched the monitor countdown, 3 minutes, 180 seconds left in her life. 120 seconds and finally only 1 minute. If this lady was going to jump, I had to grab her and pull her back as she lept. I had to be strong enough to whip her back without leaning out too far and being hit and careful not to get dragged in front of the red stripped train.
One minute left, I was watching her carefully if I saved her it would be momentarily for there are other trains, other platforms and other days. All I could do is hope she would realise that today is a blessing and she is not alone on life´s platform.
That a stranger without a word of Spanish would stand side by side in front of the yellow line as the seconds counted down to an oncoming train.
Finally, an unassuming woman stepped forward and put her hand on her shoulder, the kind of comfort that only a woman can give, that motherly touch to say that everything is ok. No one else saw what I saw, no one noticed and I wished I could congratulate or thank that angel who saw what I saw and acted. We boarded the Yellow Line and the kind old lady sat down beside the woman on the train.
She saved a life simply by reaching out to someone, simply by touching her shoulder and telling her to step back behind the Yellow Line´s yellow line.
Our train arrived and she was still alive. No one saw what I saw, death ticking down on the metro´s monitor and the sudden touch of an angel.
Sometimes we don´t have words but we all got on the train that day.
Heading for Sol, I don´t need a month of Spanish to tell you means sun
we were all aboard the Yellow Line, hopefully heading to a brighter future.
31st July 2014