It was obvious to him that the new arrival had a lot to learn. It was his hideous way of looking around him as if the world bore nothing but surprises to him. What a waste, he thought and straightened his back. No one would ever think of him as unworldly.
He recognized the people from his organization. If one had a trained eye, one would see their casual gestures: scratching their hair, smiling at someone passing by, putting their hands in their pockets and slowly scanning the crowd, the unorganized patterns people walked to get from one platform to another, to run for a train about to depart, hurry for the bus that would take them home.
Home was far away. A sudden dullness caught him, tilting the ground under his feet. He visualized the faces of his parents, the lines from hard work carved into their skin, the faint shadow of tiredness hovering in their smile. He wanted them close, wanted their voices praising his efforts. He had made it to college. He did not need money from the candy shop, or the iron sellers. He had brains and had simply passed all tests and was granted an honours student scholarship.
While he checked the positions of their people, the lights began to flicker. Loud screeches from metal wheels on metal rails were soon surpassed by ear-dazzling women’s screams. In a wave darkness rolled in from the East, stopping people as they seemed awoken from their unorganized pattern-walking, gazing up at the ceiling as if that would bring back the lights. The announcements about departing and arriving trains died out, as did the screeching and the screams.
He held his breath. This was unaccounted for. His stomach clutched together to a cold rock. The new arrival next to him breathed heavily, spreading air rich of onion flavour. Or maybe it was fear.
‘Take my hand’, he whispered as loud as he dared.
The new arrival swallowed twice. Instead of a voice, a sound rather originating from a rodent than from a boy his age answered.
‘Take my hand’, he whispered again, and then grabbed the hand of the new arrival, forcing his sweaty hand to hold on to his.
The joint he felt struck his body as a fever. This was it, he thought, though a little nausea crept up his throat while he thought of the implications, the closeness of all that he had been waiting for. While his head started to plan the escape route, a storm of complaints echoed in the hall, and bumps and thuds of people being pushed aside. Someone was on the run. As the sounds rushed closer, he could think of only one chance to properly finish all their work. He pulled the new arrival to his feet, picturing the who-ever-it-was fighting his way through the crowd, his direction, the impact of his footsteps, his probable purpose.
Just before he prepared himself for the blow, just metres away from the suspect, someone did it for him. A loud crack, most likely of a bone in the arm breaking, snapped through the rumouring of voices as easily as he pulled down the new arrival and hissed in his most angry voice not to move a muscle.