Many Small Humans – The Tram Runner

He’s running. As the tram pulls up to the stop I can see in his face he’s heading straight for the door directly to my right.

It’s not just running, it’s more frantic than that. Not frantic in a noisy, attention drawing way, it’s more internal like he’s trying not to be seen, trying not to spook those around him by his sheer desperation to reach the tram doors before they close. His stride widens as he launches himself on board, spinning quickly to face back out of the door he just entered.

He’s out of breath and desperately searching the crowd on the platform, for it’s rush hour and there’s commuters everywhere buried in books or lost in headphones. He’s impatient and willing the doors to close with his every muscle, twitching and clicking his left foot against the tram floor.

Suddenly, he sees someone in the crowd and he changes. He’s involuntarily reaching forward with his arms as a man who looks so like him they must be brothers powers through the crowd towards us. He positions himself in the tram door, bracing himself to stop it’s inevitable closing as the second man flies through the doors and bends double with what I assume is a mixture of relief and exhaustion. The first man follows suit and both men pant in silence as the tram doors close, an eye each still scanning the platform crowds.

I look around at my fellow commuters, a few of whom also watched the spectacle and many, like me, were probably wondering what kind of a job these men must do to require such desperate punctuality. It couldn’t be that simple, could it? Were they perhaps just running late for work? No, their level of desperation far exceeded that and why would they be looking back? At this point I’m convinced they’re being pursued and my interest is well and truly peaked.

I pause my podcast and leave my headphones in place.

To my annoyance, neither man spoke. Not a single word passed between them for the next 3 stops.

At stop number 4, the second man squeezed his brothers shoulders and for the briefest of moments, there’s a look between them that says all of the unsaid things from a lifetime. Even from my distant position on the opposite side of the tram, I can feel the power of that look in my breast bone. It’s pain and gratitude I think.  He exits the tram into the waiting crowds, to be replaced by an influx of city workers. I expected the second man to leave too, but instead he stayed put, no longer breathing hard but the pain in his face obvious. He watches his brother along the platform as the tram pulls away.

I’m left bereft. The chance of conversation between the brothers is gone and with it, any chance I had to know more. Mine is the next stop and I feel all is lost until through the muffling of my headphones, I hear the distinct sound of a ringing phone. Our man hears it too and to my sheer and unadulterated joy, his hand goes to his pocket and he produces an iPhone.



“He’s not with me”


“I don’t know”

“No, he’s not with me”

“I’m sorry”




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