Sunday, June 1, 2003

A night of serendipity

“Where the hell is Alphington?” I wondered Friday night, standing on the half-dark empty train platform.

I’d left the office late and tired. Like most people, I slip up when tired. I miss things, make bad calls. I ran for my train, caught it with time to spare.

Then missed my station.

I looked up from my detective novel and rather than seeing the familiar “Dennis” sign, I saw a retreating sign saying “Fairfield” - the station after. I got out at the next, quite alien station at Alphington, crossed the bridge to the city-bound platform and discovered I’d a half-hour wait. It was seven thirty, and I wanted to be home.

I could have slumped on the bench and read my detective novel, getting into a foul, hungry mood. But sometimes you have two choices: swear and mutter and grump, or breath out and go with the flow. I decided on the second.

I decided it was a night for walking. If I followed the tracks back, two stations couldn’t be that far, right? I could be back at my car in less time than waiting for the train surely.

I love it when a random decision pays off. The path was narrow and badly lit, often wound between spray-painted or high chain-link fences and almost no-one else was using it. It was great. The night was just cool enough for a brisk walk. The abandoned Alphington shops were sad, rather than menacing. I passed all of three people.

I was exploring the way I did as a kid, roaming round little hamlets on the New South Wales south coast, just looking at things and thinking. I wasn’t inconvenienced any more, I was on a very small adventure, alone with my thoughts and footsteps.

When I got into Fairfield I recognised the neighbourhood where I’d stopped once for Indian take-out. It’s not Brunswick Street, but a lot of cheerful little cafes were open. It looked a little like main street in a small town: jaunty, casual, not over-lit, Eucalypts inching up on the pedestrian precinct and the girl guides’ hall just round the corner. I was anonymous, and pleased.

I roamed around and settled on fish and chips for dinner. Resuming my walk, I passed beside a huge sculpture of a square nosed dog by Fairfield station. In the dark, it was the size of a small house. No explanation, just there, sniffing the night air like me. I wandered back to my own station, munching on chips and a corner of my Barramundi, arriving just as the train pulled in. I smiled.

Once home, I took my dinner and a beer in to the telly.


PS Yes, I went to see "The Matrix Reloaded" last night with Daniel, I'll post my thoughts by Friday, once I've collected them.

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