Tarneit is dry and tired. That’s what I’m told to expect. The temperature was going to be in the high thirties and I still went, walked the twenty minutes from my house to Seaford Station and then travelled for over and hour to Southern Cross. Trains have air conditioners, I figured; it’d be all right. It only occurred to me after I left that the heat could delay trains, or Tarneit could have been prone to bushfires.
The platforms at Southern Cross are long and I wonder how many people have missed their regional trains because of the lengths. There is no 10:10 South Geelong train and I begin to sulk at the thought of having to wait half an hour for the next one. Just as I’m beginning to slightly regret leaving the house, I’m told that the Waurn Ponds train is the 10:10 I’m looking for. I glance across the tracks to the next platform and spot the V/line I need to get on. I quicken my pace.
I check three times that I’m on the correct V/line, always paranoid that my short-sighted eyes are tricking me. This isn’t the kind of day for an impromptu adventure to Ballarat. There are a few passengers with me in the quiet carriage – the man opposite me, with thin white hair and beard, has his legs stretched out and eyes closed. He looks like he’s on the train for the whole ride.
I listen to Elton John because train rides make me feel cinematic, and he is the most cinematic musician I can think of. Last year when I was in Newcastle, I went back to my shared apartment to get ready for a party alone. I was preparing myself for the night ahead, for spending time with people I barely knew. Once I was dressed I laid on my back and listened to Tiny Dancer, pretending I was in a movie.
For a moment I look for a seatbelt, and then remember where I am – the seat makes me think that I’m in a plane, waiting for take-off. As we depart I listen to the train’s engines and smile.
In my ear, Elton sings, I think it’s gonna be a long long time.
There’s no one to pick me up when I arrive at Tarneit station. Two people who got off the train with me walk over to the nearest bus stop and sit down. I have nowhere to go.
In direct sunlight I start to sweat and try to find some shade. A large carpark encompasses the station, with scattered bus stops and roads to lead to the edge of the universe – at least, that’s what it seems like. It only took twenty-five minutes to get here on the train but from where I’m standing I can’t even see the silhouettes of the city’s skyscrapers. Instead, I see a lot of open space and dry grass. On the train ride here I spotted two camels in what looked like somebody’s backyard, but was actually a circus.
I can see a K-mart sign in the distance, across the car park and highway. I spot the golden arches of McDonalds. Even in the middle of nowhere, I can get some chicken nuggets and a soft serve.
This place is a far cry from my beachside suburb. I start looking for the air conditioned waiting room and text my friend who is coming on a bus to meet me. The two people from the nearest bus stop are gone, though I hadn’t seen a bus drive past. This place really would be a great shooting location for a suburban horror film.
Wind howls through the lampposts. I can’t quite think of anything good to compare it to, but the sound is eerie. Mostly because it’s really the only thing I can hear, apart from cars driving away in the distance. I think, this will be the last thing I hear before I die.