The morning rush hour on the train out to the university. Rush hour on the Stockholm metro is not comparable in any way to the London tube or the New York City subway, not by a long shot, it’s never as torturously hot on the train here, but the squeeze can be just as bad. Getting on in Kärrtorp, third station in, I’m normally in with shot at a seat, my eyes darting around the train as soon as I alight. Anyone going north in Stockholm switching from the green to the red line knows that Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is the place to swap. It’s a simple matter of walking from one side of the platform to the other, instead of dealing with crush on the escalators at Slussen or Centralen. This is my morning routine now, every day of the week, as I make my way out to university campus.
Normally I use the time on the train, providing I get a seat, to study, but being that yesterday I wrote a four hour exam and today we only have an introductory lecture on the next module, I decided to treat myself to some music. I’ve been going through a big Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds period since I watched the 20,000 Days on Earth documentary a few weeks back. I sat on the train from Gamla Stan to University, drinking cheap black coffee and listening to their breathtakingly beautiful album The Boatman’s Call, an album I’ve criminally neglected in large part until now. It’s quite wonderful in it’s piano based minimalism, haunting songs and lyrics that send a chill down your spine as you sit there on the packed train amongst the crowd of faceless commuters.
As the mesmerising ballad Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere? began tinkling it’s first tones we were just pulling away from Ötermalmstorg Station. As a smattering of seats vacated a young girl moved from a few rows down and sat herself next to a young boy opposite me. The pain in their faces was immediately recognisable. They looked at each other in the eyes, sadness seemingly overwhelming them as Nick Cave whispered in my ears. It was quite obvious they were a young couple very much in love, very much in despair at whatever fight they’d had. The boy, a classic looking Scandinavian, so good looking and chiseled, stared at his phone, doing his best to give the impression he was reading whatever words were displayed on it. I could tell he wasn’t reading simply by the fact he didn’t blink, not even once. I observed them in the reflection of the window, the lights in the carriage providing a mirror in the darkness of the tunnel. The girl, darker with strikingly deep, brown eyes, stole a glance at him now and again. The boy continued to stare at his phone. “Where do we go now but nowhere?” It was like I was living in a scene of a love story movie or partaking in interactive theatre, but the soundtrack was solely in my head. The boy finally breaks through the painful barrier and looks his love in the eyes, giving her just enough encouragement to lean her head on his shoulder. “Where do we go now but nowhere?” As Nick Cave sung the last lines of the song the girl mouthed “Sorry” to the boy, and the train pulled into Tekniska Högskolan Station, and they slowly rose from their seats as the piano’s final note rang out into silence. The timing was that perfect, just like in a love story movie.
Then they were gone and in the gap between the songs the hum of the train and the commuters talking become audible once again.