Watson—Underground


Watson stepped into a metro train at Plaza Catalunya, took a seat and opened out the copy of The New Statesman he had bought from a kiosk on the street.  The train rolled along, its trundling movements reassuring so that he felt like a baby in a pram.  People moved on and off, mostly in silence; that eerie, practical silence of underground trains everywhere.

After Fontana Station he glanced up at a girl with long, limp hair.  It was merely a casual glance such as happens ten million times a week on the Metro but in Watson's terms, this simple connection led to an extraordinary occurrence.  The girl sighed deeply, a haughty sigh full of disdain, stood up and moved to the next four-seat section where she sat with her back to him.  Watson looked around to see had anyone noticed?  He felt weird.  He wanted to go after the girl and ask what had he done?  Had he insulted her?  Had he invaded her space, somehow molested her?

Poor old Watson.

Why am I even telling you this, he said?  Why am I even thinking about it?  It's just that such incidents are further proof of our absolute isolation.  Furthermore, he added, I decided to stay on the train for that section of stations with names that have a moribund ring: Lesseps, Vallcarca, Penitents, Vall d'Hebron, Montbau, Mundet.  He got off at Mundet, crossed over to take the train again through those stations like a return trip into Hades, the image of the girl tormenting him: Mundet, Montbau, Vall d'Hebron, Penitents, Vallcarca, Lesseps.  You are gliding through the valleys of Hell.

There was an edge to his voice now as he claimed that any intelligent mammal should deny the existence of happiness because of the unbearable weight of history past and present.  The horrors that pile up in each decade should be transcendent.  Any sentient mollusc should view the pursuit of happiness as a delusion.  A corpulent person waddling towards a restaurant with a happy face was morally distasteful given the imbalance in the spread of human resources.  Happy and fat, in the restaurant, a sin.

It was clear that he, Leo Watson, should sign up to a charitable organisation and take the next flight into the Third World.  And good riddance some would say.  It was the fundamental dilemma facing the existentialist, that is in Watson's definition of it, the nihilist without religion or faith versus the universe, somehow remaining upright for a certain duration, the fragment of time allowed to the individual member of the species.

A silence fell on Watson, his eyes registering the daily slide of mankind down the chute, a human race founded not on love, hope and charity, but rather on the doctrines of imperialism, racism and the Inquisition.  If he did venture into the Third World as a volunteer in some charitable foundation you would fear for him.

Luckily, Watson laughed at that moment, his wonderful, hearty laugh.  This mood of pessimism only lasted for the duration of the train journey from Mundet to Plaza Espanya, I don't know about ten stops.  By the time he got off and entered again into the overground world, the blue sky and the sunny light, he had become a normal, blinkered human being, aware at any given moment of less than one per cent of the knowledge available to him.

He looked around at the beautiful girls passing by.  He even felt hungry and began the search for a restaurant.  

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