Feverish and half-heartedly frantic, my clapped out calves and soggy spaghetti hamstrings are pushed out to Maximum Trundle, and the stop is still 30 yards away — and my bus is rapidly approaching.
Part of me is bursting to catch it and another part of me wants to jack it all in and head back home.
I raise my weary arm and reach out in pleading supplication — otherwise known as hailing the bus, myself and the yellow and blue people chariot arrive at the stop more or less simultaneously.
The doors hiss open and I lumber on board, both relieved and sorry I’ve made it.
Good job I have my travel card, because I doubt I could speak to the smirking driver.
I might have muttered something — in between pants — about the bus being nearly 10 minutes earlier than yesterday.
And he probably would still just look at me in the same borderline disdainful way.
What a woozy doozy of a head cold I have woken up to, but the show must on, and off to work I … stumble.
How undignified. Wiping the droplets of sweat from my forehead as I sag into the seat with the floundering grace of an asthmatic seal.
Shouldn’t have had that hurried last coffee before leaving the house, I’m thinking now, as a lurch of acid racks my guts.
If I were a staff person I would be snug and sorry for myself right now — and cocooned in my bed. Heroically reaching for the Lemsip my wife would have tenderly left for me.
What? Man flu you say!
No, no, no … I’m a freelance so the motto is: Unwell but never sick. No show, no dough.
I’m uptight but at least upright, even if my head is all over the place.
I’m wheezing and coughing among these straight-faced people, who look all sensible and brimful of purpose, their voices both too loud for my sensitive ears and far-off sounding, as I fumble for that wad of toilet tissue scrunched into my anorak pocket.
This is no job for those prissy little packets of tissues; only endless flipped over rectangles of bog roll will do for this baby.
More likely my fellow passengers are silently but furiously cursing me and my invading army of germs, and praying they’re not next …
I’m present in the world, I suspect, but really living a parallel moment, as if I’m actually hallucinating all of this, and it makes the reflected head of the person sitting directly behind me now bursting out of the chest of the tall guy standing in front of me behind the glass divider between us look perfectly normal.
Making me think of that iconic scene in the original Alien movie where the little alien pops out of John Hurt’s chest.
A dog barking out there somewhere across those weary fields has the menace and reverberating melancholy of a lone prairie wolf.
I’m barking myself, like my chest wants to explode — maybe there’s a little alien inside me too — and my red-lidded, watering eyes are a bloodshot mask across my aching forehead as I locate a dry patch on my wad of tissues, and honk away furtively.
Feeling sorry for myself, me?
I’m just wondering is it time yet to gob another couple of Paracetamol. Being a bloke, of course they’re STRONG …
I’m like an engine with no fuel, and here I am revving away, the warning buttons bleeping faster and louder …
And this is only the first part of my commute.
Next stop is the train station, and the 25-minute rail trip to my actual newspaper sports desk destination.
Whoahh, I’m not looking forward to this evening on the desk … Ireland playing yet another crucial qualifier, against Switzerland in Geneva … we win and we’re through to the Euro 2020 finals, we lose and manager Mick McCarthy’s ass is hovering over that bacon-slicer again.
Fever pitch, how are ya!
At times like this the gates of dreaming, reverie and thinking are all down and fact and fantasy ride together.
I’m sitting on the platform and taking in the usual scene, but my mind is careering.
One minute I’m watching a lone seagull hang-gliding in the breeze, the next I’m thinking of this season’s Mr Mercedes on TV, and Bob Dylan’s gem Series Of Dreams playing over the opening credits, as Brendan Gleeson, aka Detective Bill Hodges, clambers out of a grave and all sorts.
I’ve always loved the song, and I look at the video on YouTube now on my phone … in it you see Dylan at different ages, and everything melds into everything else … as he says, he’s thinking of a series of dreams, and “nothing comes to the top …”
That’s how I feel now … past and present melding together and how easy it is to feel that life is actually just a series of dreams, and the earthly years and lingering minutes are but an illusion … it’s all just blinking on by.
Each significant moment, once real and lived, just a station whistling by now on this journey of thought … a series of dreams.
“Thinking of a series of dreams
Where the time and the tempo fly”
The platform tannoy crackles and soon I’m on another train of thought.
On the actual train.
I am a slave once more to the rumbling rhythm of this gently swaying chain of city-bound carriages, and my thoughts are meandering and ruminative now.
My eyeballs are still gooey gelatinous sacks of bloodshot Halloween props, and they might even be detachable, but I am amused by this image, still disconnected but reconnecting, like I am just the main character in my own movie.
Living a series of dreams.
“Wasn’t making any great connection
Wasn’t falling for any intricate scheme
Nothing that would pass inspection
Just thinking of a series of dreams”
I can do this, I feel now, I will get through my day’s work and be back home soon.
Most of this has been typed with one digit on my phone on the train, and I am feeling kind of wired, and weird and pleasantly exhausted, for now.
I have always loved travelling by train, and I feel lulled and benign as the train — and my brain — decelerate to a dawdle as we approach my station.
A favourite poem comes to mind, Robert Louis Stevenson’s From A Railway Carriage.
I have loved this poem from when I was a boy in primary school, a slave to the rhythm and marvel of its evocation of every train journey ever …
“Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye
Painted stations whistle by”
I can definitely do this …
The last blue signs, Killester, Clontarf Road slide rather than whistle by, rare interruptions in the relentless green of tangled shrubbery climbing high on the banks on either side of the rain-splattered carriage windows.
The dreary city houses now coalescing under the dreary grey sky don’t promise much as the train slows and slows, and even the reveal of sea around the sweep of Clontarf bay fails to lift the scene.
But what’s that out by the twin towers of Poolbeg power station … there is light beneath the glowering grey, and the red-and-white-striped towers rise magisterially into the celestial mist …
“Wasn’t looking for any special assistance
Not going to any great extremes
I’d already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams”
You and me both, Bob!
This has been some (head) trip, and I feel either wrecked or renewed.
We’ll soon see which!
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