Metro Mensch in Zurich
Story by José Pablo Melaza, Illustration by Manuel Ferrari

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Metro Mensch in Baghdad
Metro Mensch in Berlin
Metro Mensch in Folkestone
Metro Mensch in India
Metro Mensch in London
Metro Mensch in Madrid
Metro Mensch in Mexico
Metro Mensch in São Paulo
Metro Mensch in Strasbourg
Metro Mensch in Washington DC
Metro Mensch in Zurich

The train leaving platform 17
There is a woman under the writer’s skin. She is often at Zurich station. Today, she pretends to be waiting for a train, an intercity leaving from platform 17 and going south to Geneva, with stops at Lenzburg, Aarau, Olten, Biel, Neuenburg and Lausanne. She looks at her reflection in the windows of a local train on the opposite platform. She is extremely young, barely out of her teens. But her blue eyes are those of an older woman.

The woman sees a man walking down the platform. He seems to be in a hurry. He must be a commuter. She likes that man in motion, the way he runs towards a train door, his fair hair, his pale eyes. The man wears a dark green Austrian coat. The woman sighs, any moment he will be gone. Later, not now, she realises she had wanted him to speak to her. But the commuter does not look at the woman. He jumps onto the train. The train leaves. The woman starts to walk, looking for another departing train. The writer feels the woman’s steps under his skin. The writer does not know her name.

There is also the commuter under the writer’s skin. Every day he takes the same train from Zurich. Today he is late. He rushes to catch the intercity to Lenzburg, leaving from platform 17. In the evening he will be back at the station, arriving on the same platform on train coming from the south, from Geneva and stopping at Lenzburg.

He doesn’t look at the woman, lingering on the platform. But somehow he is conscious of her young feminine presence. He does not see her hair but senses it is fair. He does not see her eyes but knows they are pale. Later, not now, he realises he had wanted to speak to her.

Now he settles in his seat and leaves the city. He glances at his reflection in the train window. He is not old, maybe twenty. Later, in the evening, he will be back. He will wander around the station looking for her, without knowing. The woman will have gone. The writer feels the man’s steps under his skin. He knows his name.

And finally, there is the city under the writer’s skin. Zurich. Everything is under his skin: the cold clear Limmat river, the frozen white lake, both cathedrals, the expensive Bahnhofstrasse, The blue trams and buses, the biting wind and the dark grey snow. But it is the station, in the heart of the city that matters most to the writer. Here the woman waits for trains she never boards. Here the commuter rushes through in the morning to catch his train to Lenzburg. Here he loiters in the evening after his return from work.

The station is a city within a city.

Both the woman and the commuter are citizens of the station. They know its smells, different smells at different times of the day. They know all the shops, above and below ground. They know all the buffets, the kiosks, the vendors, the posters, the one hundred clocks, the sound of metallic voices announcing arrivals and departures. They are at home at the station.

It is winter now. Winter in Zurich is forever. The writer feels the dirty snow in the streets. He shivers deep inside. The only pieces of life left inside his freezing body are his heart, the woman, the commuter and the city. The writer was not born here. He does not live here. He knows that the woman and the commuter came to Zurich some time ago. He knows everything about them and the city. After all, he has got all of them under his skin.

The writer knows that the woman and the commuter will never meet. He also knows that many years later the woman will be thinking about the commuter, not understanding why she never kissed him. The writer is not sure about the commuter. What would have followed if he had smiled at the woman waiting for no trains on platform 17? But the writer knows that many years later the commuter and the woman will meet in their dreams.

Cold tears flow from the writer’s eyes, running under his skin. They freeze his heart. They freeze his memories of Zurich, its station, a woman waiting and a man in motion.