Virtual Shackles

A commuter train becomes the perfect vehicle for a discussion on modernity, in Sarah ElSayed's creative prose.

by Sarah ElSayed 

Some of us have our heads buried in our phones; others in our books, music blasting. Some of us keep our eyelids shut, and take in the euphoric scent of stale urine and spilt coffee, while others doze off to the angry voices asking for help and the familiar stomping we know as ‘show time’

We’ve been summoned, and we must praise the Lord for the opportunity

We must pledge our allegiances to the country that gave us the chance

To sign along the dotted line

To shackle our ankles to rolling chairs and utilise our muscle memory for QWERTY and ASDFGHJKL SEMI COLON alone.


We can no longer see the absurdity of the commas and the decimal points that glow behind the glass of our smart phones

Inside an app that we cannot touch, taste, or smell.

A screen that determines our ability to exist on a planet we never asked to exist in

That flourishes from the direct deposit of a cheque we’ve never touched our fingertips to

We pin ourselves against each other

We put in more hours than our counterparts, at a chance to have and provide.

To consume.

To consume things that make the routine more comfortable and convenient. We consume distractions.

The whip cracks at 6 am to the tune of ‘Hello Moto’

We swipe it right, and wipe the crust from our tired eyes – a salute to another day.

We get dressed and lock the door of a room that we don’t own; begin walking to the train in our Tuesday best, almost to say ‘please sir, may I have another?’

Sarah ElSayed | @SarahMElSayed | Instagram

Sarah ElSayed is a 23-year-old publicist from Brooklyn, New York.