Accidents Will Happen
The skin on my hands got dry and itchy last week and is now unbearable and flaky. I’ve been moaning about it so much, Caroline, my wife, went to some Chinese herbalist and got me this unctuous, waxy balm. I appreciate the help, I mean great sheets of skin were coming off the back of my hand, it was very discouraging for shop assistants, but she could’ve just gone to the chemist.
I have to smear it all over my hands and rub it in. Normally it leaves a slight greasiness that my skin absorbs after a few minutes. This morning I dropped the jar on the bed because I was trying to avoid getting the balm on my shirt cuffs and I’d had to get the cat in from out back because I haven’t got a back door key anymore so I was late for work. Loads of the greasy stuff fell on the sheets and I couldn’t scoop it back into the jar so I tried to rub it in but my skin wouldn’t absorb it all. I had a thick layer of grease on my hands that made locking the front door embarrassingly difficult.
I ran to the stop and managed to push into a crowded rush hour tram. It was packed, everyone trying to keep their faces blank as they held in flatulence and pretended not to look lustfully at hes and shes they saw most mornings. I had to stand up and try and hold onto one of the plastic loops designed for such a purpose that hang from tubular bars. This was difficult, and I could only achieve it by wrapping part of my shirt sleeve around my hand, this meant the button popped off and I got balm on my cuff. My struggling to keep hold of the plastic loop also covered it with the balm, a milky, greasy film that didn’t look like it would evaporate.
I was only on for four stops, but people were climbing on and no one was getting off, which meant crowds of us were pushed closer together. One bloke came on and stayed upright by wedging his leg against the seat next to where I was standing. He smiled at me. He was quite an old boy but obviously tremendously strong.
My stop came and with relief I was able to let go of the plastic loop and gently jostle my way off the tram. As soon as I released my hold, the old boy unwedged his leg and trusted his entire body weight to his grip on the balm smeared loop. I was about to step through the hissing doors when I heard the thump and the attention seeking yelp. His grip had slipped, he’d fallen and smacked his face straight on the floor. He was lying face down like a Brazilian on the Tube, arms and legs trembling as he began to cry. The hissing doors shut. I was a spectator through glass as a middle-aged office woman bent over him, all concerned tart. I saw a young woman in expensive spectacles place her hand to her mouth, a bloke in a suit point meaningfully at me with a stab of his arm and an elderly lady in maroon shake her head.
I turned and hastened away, hearing the beepbeepbeep and industrial hum of the tram pulling away. Ashamed and furtive, I was relieved as a cyclist swerved to avoid a horn tooting white van and the faces turned elsewhere.
Zack Wilson was born in Skegness in the 1970’s. Of Scottish heritage, he is now resident in Sheffield. His work has featured in several places, including Unquiet Desperation, Zygote In My Coffee (online) and Winamop.com, amongst others. He is currently working on a cycle of stories set in Sheffield. Further info can be found at www.myspace.com/sheffieldram.