1 The constraints: 1) No more than
one hour. 2) No more than 20 lines.
The result ? Genius or Not.

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25th February 2011

By Cassandra Moss | 2011 February 25

There is little room on a four seat table in standard class on a train from London to Bristol. Two people have laptops, their backs leaning against each other. One screen contains words like 'sector', 'elevation' and 'Hat Thinking', while the other is a mystery, although its owner is wearing headphones and moving her cropped-haired head back and forth in contained enjoyment. The wires are bunched in between the machines and the plug sockets, ungainly and prosaic. Next to the head-mover is a man with a bushy, grey moustache who's been looking around for the last several minutes as if he's done something truly awful. But then he pushes his glasses up his nose, relaxes, and takes out a magazine. Pages of women's fashion are mauled and turned: winter dresses in greys, browns and blacks, flawless skin and perfect aquiline noses. The magazine's put aside and a huge bag of toffee popcorn is opened, introducing a sweet, baked aroma into the carriage. Loudly chomping on each popped piece of corn, the man flips through the lingerie section interspersed with looking up and overtly staring at the head-mover's screen. People, if they do anything at all, register self-appointment in others. Like an insect that crawls, uninvited, over your skin, weaving in and out of the fine hairs with abandon, encountering an unadulterated person in public is met with incredulity at the sheer nerve of it. The smell of the popcorn is taking me to a time when I never went on trains. As the head-mover turns his way he casually goes back to the lingerie. She looks across to the guy with the laptop, who's been glancing up at the goings-on. Nothing's doing on the mutual support front so he returns to his screen. I taste the sugar that used to be an everyday meal supplement. When she looks at me, she's begging for tacit consent to convey her sense of violation so I give the most non-committal upturn of the corner of my mouth that I can manage and she looks like she's going to say something to him, but doesn't. The man is seemingly oblivious to everything around him. She goes back to moving her head, albeit almost imperceptibly now, her enjoyment even more contained. And this table and the whole train are irrelevant because I am somewhere else: riding my bike on summer evenings until it's almost dark and getting rashes from cut grass that emboss my skin with round, red bumps, revulsion at the transformation because skin shouldn't be mutable, it should stay unchanged always.

Trains, Memory

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