Where hope is - life is - Part one
By Anne Elfengård
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If somebody claim that in this community nothing ever happens beside barfights and domestic quarrels, they are wrong. This story took place practically on their doorstep one thursday night in the fall.
Entering the train on their way home from work some people occationally become travelling companions and engage in a cosy going home conversation enjoying the ride and being together.
"You know, I found this recipe for porkchops with prunes", Jane laughed - "And I made the dish for dinner last night. You should have seen the kids faces. Not to mention Peter's".
She made a wry face.
"They are impossible when it comes to something new". "Just plain old beefstew or meatloaf. Never something creative or inventive".
"I guess, I'm privilleged", Nancy said. "Gordon is the one cooking in our home, and he always find something exotic to cook for dinner."
She lit a cigarette before she went on.
"Tonight he promissed to cook pasta a l'Orange". "He said he was bringing the italian and the french culinary art together in one dish."
The train stopped at another station and Marcia joined them.
She didn't just sit herself down at the empty seat. She dropped herself and sighed deeply.
"What a day", she moaned. "I never thought I would live to see the end of it."
"That bad, huh", Jane said with empathy. "Those kind of days never seems to end."
"Tell me about it", Marcia replied with sarkasm in her voice. "Every one have been crying for help all day, and I only have one head and two hands." She stopped to take a deep breath.
"And my feet are killing me", she contiued to complain. "Jesus, I wanna soak in a hot bath for hours tonight." - "How about you guys? How was your day?"
"As usual", Nancy said leaning forward to ash in the ashtray. "Nothing ever happens in my office."
Jane was a bit sad about dropping the subject: Pasta a L'Orange, but she reminded herself to ask Nancy about it tomorrow.
"Pierce went out of town again today", she said pretending to be a little pissed about these unexpected trips all the time. "So I spent all day telling the clients: <<Sorry, he's not in today. Can I take a message>> . I feel like an old record with a scratch".
Nancy put out her cigarette and threw a glance towards the entrance door. The train had made another stop and this weird man almost flew into the compartment.
He was a very nervously looking, hectic, foreigner. All stressed out for some reason, and he barricade himself in the midsection between the smoker's compartment and the nonsmoker's compartment by closing the doors with hard, sudden moves.
And she wasn't the only one. Most of the passengers broke off their conversation and threw him a glance. Then returning to whatever they were doing.
Through the glass in the doors Nancy could see him lean against the wall corner. Then she engaged herself in the conversation again.
"Joanna called me at work this morning", she heard Marcia telling Jane. "The schoolbus didn't come in time and she had to ask our neighbour to take her to school". "Thank God, he was home".
"It's the second time this week", Marcia went on. "And I had to call the school and tell them she'd be late again."
Nancy's attention was suddenly drawn to the weird man again. A girl from the "no smoking" compartment was getting ready to get off the train at the next station and as she tryed to open the compartment door, the weird guy went after her violently. She looked frightend as she fought a hard battle to get back to safety behind the closed door.
"What's going on here", she thought as she watched the girl head for another exit door.
This time she kept looking at him. Letting her eyes and her expression on the face tell the guy that she disapproved of his behaviour.
"What happend", Marcia asked surpriced about the uproar.
"He harrassed her", Nancy said, still a bit shocked, noticing that the whole compartment had started talking about the incident.
She couldn't help it. She kept starring at the guy with disapproval written all over her face.
The weird guy started walking back and forward and tripping nervously as if he didn't know what to do with him self. He was like a lion in a cage.
Suddenly he ripped the door open and spit in Nancy's direction, like a snake striking at it's prey.
The compartment went silent. Everybody looked at the weirdo. Shocked. Realizing that they had to pass him to get off the train - soon. Next stop was the terminus. Frozen like snowmen in garden they all just sat there staring. Unable to comprehend what just happened.
Nancy's expressionate face reflected her surprice and disgust and made the weirdo even more uncomfortable out there.
Then the train stopped. End of the line. And people still just sat there afraid to get up. Afraid to be the first one passing by the weirdo.
Nancy hesitated for a minute. Collecting herself, her bag and her umbrella and took the first step towards the door.
The weirdo went after her imidiately.
She anticipated this move and faced the weirdo with her umbrella raised in defens.
She didn't speak at all but returned his silent treath with another silent treath.
He made an attempt to strike her, but she shielded herself with her umbrella.
He struck again and this time he hit her glasses. The glasses broke and fell to the floor.
Up til now Nancy had been unaware of the people gathering around them. All of a sudden nobody was in a hurry. They stood there blocking the way out. The weirdo was cornered.
Someone fetched the broken glasses from the floor and kept them for her as she contiously kept starring the weirdo right in the eyes. Not letting him off for one second.
The weirdo made one more attempt to strike her, but she was quick with her umbrella. She put it right under his nose not letting go of the eyecontact. And her eyes were hard and mean looking. She must have been a frightening sight because the weirdo suddenly started to move slowly backward through the crowd.
Nancy didn't let go of the eyecontact. She followed him step by step through the compartments of the train. She had broken his spirit. He was litteraly crawling backwards across the floor. Slowly and scared looking. The crowd made way for them.
As they reached the exit door an offduty policeman was waiting for them.
Nancy didn't know. She thought that he had reached freedom and she hoped she had given him such a scare that he wouldn't try anything like it again.
Then she realized that the weirdo was held back by someone.
"She was trying to rape me", the weirdo explained to the off duty policeman
"You did great", her friends said as someone handed her back her broken glasses.
"Oh, hell", Nancy outbursted looking at the mess that used to be her glasses.
"Just what I needed.". - "I want compensation for this, somehow."
She was not allowed to morn for her glasses that long. A stranger by name, not by appearance handed her his business card. "If you need my testimony", he said, "Don't hesitate to call."
She accepted confused. Her mind had not yet adjusted to the situation. The amount concentration she'd put into keeping the eyecontact with the weirdo had made no room for her to fully comprehend what was going on around her. Hundreds of questions needed answers.
Why did strangers volunterely offer to give evidence? Who called the police? Who took the initiative to fetch the off duty policeman? What made all these people stick around?
She needed so badly to collect her thoughts and find some answers, but everytime she tried to ask any questions another person wanted to write down his or hers phonenumber.
She wanted so badly to sort out her feelings about what just happened and her broken glasses, but people around her seemed to want her attention for something else all the time.
She felt disoriented and overwhelmed at the same time. This was not at all what she expected. In her wildest dreams she never anticipated the incident to end like this.
The crowd around her dissolved, slowly but steady until it was just her and him and the off duty policeofficer waiting for a patrol car to arrive.
"What took it so long." - "The policestation was located just a few hundred yards away.",
Nancy impatiently thought as she awaited the arrival of the patrolecar.
A quick glance towards the fast food stand convinced her that there was no line anymore. She could ask the girl behind the counter to phone the policestation again.
As thought so done. Nancy went for it.
"Could you please phone the policestation again and find out what's keeping them so long?", she asked the girl.
The girl hesitated. "I'm really not allowed to", she replied a bit scared.
"But this is an emergency", Nancy went on.
The girl started to look nervous.
"I'm sorry", she stuttered. "I am really not allowed to."
Nancy was loosing her patience now. She was getting ready to straighten this girl out when the patrolecar finally arrived.
"Never mind", she hushly said and left the fast food stand walking back towards the weirdo and his caretaking company.
The weirdo was already handcuffed with his hands behind his back as she got there, and an officer was "helping" him into the backseat of the patrolecar.
The other officer took her aside and opened his notebook.
"Thank God for small favors", she said to herself. "He's going to take my statement right here."
Then she realized that she was blank. She didn't know what really happened. It just happened so quickly and unexpectedly and she still had more questions than answers.
To her relief the policeofficer knew the right questions and she told him the story bit for bit.
The whole thing was over in 10 minutes or so.
"Thanks for the phonenumber", the officer said as they parted. "You'll be hearing from us soon."
"You're welcome", Nancy politely responded. "I just want to know if I can get compensation for my broken glasses"
"We'll look into it", he smiled as he entered the patrolecar leaving Nancy by herself.
Going from being the center of everybodys attention to being left alone was hard to adjust to. She looked at her wristwatch. In a few minutes her bus would pull up by the busstop.
"What a thursday. Nothing ever happens in this little quiet town", she thought as she started to walk towards the busstop.
A feeling of happines started to spread through her body as she realized that this was a rare experience of solidarity and humanity. A teamwork not staged nor directed by anyone.
People did what they did for the sake of justice and the right to a peacefull life. A once in a lifetime experience.
"Where hope is, life is", she said to herself.
There was still hope for mankind in this world.
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