Tuned Out (Short Story)

The task for the Creative Writing Class was to eavesdrop on a conversation and to build characters and to weave a story with them from that conversation.

I side-tracked. Nowadays, everyone’s on their phones or reading their books, I’m always on my headphones, I personally do not like the noise of people talking things I have no interest in especially when I could be hearing my music.

So what I did was to come up with a character that’s forced to listen to these conversations strangers have on the train.

TUNED OUT

I jerk awake as a boy barely the height of a traffic cone trots along past me after having stepped on my toes without even a word of an apology. Nope. I don’t even get a nod in acknowledgement from the boy who stares fixedly at the cartoon animation on his phone as he rushes to take a seat on the other side of the train. His helper follows behind him, carrying his bag for the nursery school he attends which has a white and orange uniform. She is also staring at a phone.

Breathe.

I look to my feet. Although there are no visible redness on my dark skinned toes, make no mistake, the throbbing pain is felt. I rub away the pain reminding myself to wear shoes, boots even, instead of sandals next time. But now that I have been jolted awake, there’s no going back to sleeping. I check the route map. I still have a good three stations before my stop. Sighing, I take a look around the crowded cabin that was empty when I had boarded at it’s first pit stop. I made the wise choice of taking the seat in the middle of the row. No one nudged me awake requesting my seat.

A voice interrupts my music on my Bluetooth headphones. ‘Battery low, please re-charge.’

OH NO.

My music stops completely and my headphones auto shuts off.

I let out a silent groan as the loud noises of the world I had been ignoring come crashing into my ears. People talk louder than necessary compensating for the vrooming of the train through the tunnel. Cartoonish songs from the other side of the cabin pervade the air.

Breathe.

Soon my ears become accustomed to the incessant chattering of people and the un-harmonised music blaring out of their devices. A group of well-dressed Caucasian men stand in front of me, speaking in French. Whatever it is they’re talking about, it’s serious. Not one of them cracks even the slightest smile, not once. But who’s to say they’re not badmouthing the boy who had bull-dozed through them.

A group of three friends occupy the seats beside me. They speak in Mandarin. Unlike the French, these girls laugh at every instance struggling to complete their sentence.

The Filipino lady on my other side though regurgitates a whole essay in Tagalog before her friend she’s having a video call with can even nod. I lean towards the Chinese girls not wanting to be a part of that video.

I look around the cabin in search of some familiar language. I don’t hear any English from the rest who are busy swiping through their phones or reading The New Paper. ‘Police Investigating After Video of Two Men Fighting on The MRT’ the front page reads.

Well. I count my lucky stars for not having been on that train… But in all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had been there with a headphone that didn’t shut down on me, with sleep not having been ruined by a rude kid, in peace being oblivious of the chaotic world.

One more stop.

I can’t wait to get home and shut the world out for the rest of the evening.

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