My friend and I shuffle onto the crowded train at the Fremantle station. There are hardly any seats left, so we have to sit apart from each other. I settle into my seat. The man sitting next to me is wearing a slightly sloppy suit, glasses, and a bright purple bra over his clothes … Wait, what? I double-take.
He catches me looking and grins widely. “You like my brassiere?” he asks, in a slightly slurred French accent.
I reach for a quip. “Yes, it brings out your eyes.”
“Today is the day you wear a bra to work, you know. Even the men.”
“Is it?” (No other men are wearing bras.)
“Yes! Perhaps you and your friend would like to wear a bra like this?”
He is now gesturing towards my brassiere region. I decide this conversation is over.
“No thanks,” I say, and turn back to my friend. She is staring straight ahead, seemingly unaffected by my situation. I’m a bit surprised at her lack of reaction.
The man is still talking.
“I ‘ave just been to a job interview.”
I am now trying to segue out of the conversation by grunting noncommittally and making minimal eye contact. “Uh huh.”
“I am going to work in the mining … I am a business man …” He goes on like this. Occasionally he lapses into French and I have even less idea what he’s talking about. He is crushed right up against me on the crowded seats, practically nuzzling my ear. I lock eyes with my friend; if she can catch everything my eyes are saying, she should be hearing screams inside her head right now.
I keep leaning away from the French man, which he seems to take as a sign to keep leaning closer. I’m on the point of standing up and moving to the other end of the train carriage when the glorious announcement comes over the speakers: this is our stop! We are free!
My friend and I exit the train (followed by loud farewells from French Bra Guy). I still feel a little hurt that my friend didn’t seem sympathetic to my plight. Suddenly, she explodes with rage.
“UGH, THAT GUY WAS THE WORST! FUCKING PARISIANS!!”
After a long, generalised rant about the evils of Frenchmen, she explains that she had spent the whole train ride concentrating very carefully on not unleashing her hatred upon him. She recently spent a year living in Switzerland with a French-speaking family, and thus could understand everything that French Bra Guy had been saying. Including the French. Apparently it had not been flattering.
We finally have a laugh, happy in the open sunshine of the outside. It is pleasant to be out of the train.
I don’t think about the French Bra Guy again for weeks. Then, one night, I’m catching the Fremantle train once again. It’s late, and the security guards are the only other people on the train. I strike up a chat with them.
“Which is the worst train line?”
The security guards consider this, tilting their heads. The one who looks like Shannon Noll answers.
“Well, Armadale gets a bit interesting. We pretty much see a fight every shift. But Fremantle … oh, Fremantle. We call this the Crazy Line.”
What a delight to learn that I’m not alone in my appraisal. Even the security guards think this train line is nuts.
Shannon Noll Security Guard continues. “Man, we see the same people so often, we even get to know them by name. This train is like free housing for the crazies.”
I nod. “I know! Like this guy I saw last week, he was wearing a purple bra over his suit …”
The security guard interrupts. “Was he French?”
How the heck does he know this? “Yes! He was!”
“Oh yeah, we know him. He’s okay when he’s on his meds, but when he stops taking them … Well, we have to watch him.”
I wonder if the occasion with the purple bra was on a Meds Day or a No-Meds Day.
As I wave goodbye to the friendly security guards, I reflect on the nature of their job. Just like a hairdresser is also part therapist, so it seems that a Transperth security guard is also part psychiatric nurse. Good luck to those noble souls who work the Fremantle line. Good luck, and good night!