A WEEK ON THE TRAIN
Today I get a seat immediately. Part luck, part knowing which stretch of the platform will maximise my chances. I’m starting a new book today (The Girl on the Train, ironically) and don’t want the bustle of passengers interrupting the crucial introduction of Chapter One. Instead, it’s the couple standing in front of me, kissing at ten-second intervals like teenagers behind a bike shed. Not fully fledged kisses, more like precise pecks. But it’s enough to draw my attention and it bothers me. I retreat to my book, words passing at the rate of wheels on the track. One half of the lip-lock duo gets off at South Kensington. I feel grateful for her departure. Mines not for another five or so stops. I can enjoy my book in peace now.
No seat. I’ve slipped back into my old ways of checking Instagram first thing and I instantly regret it. I look up, the sun reflects off windows of identical brick buildings. I’m blinded for the second time today. Seat. No excuse not to pick up my book. It sits on my lap as I scan the carriage, hoping none of my companions will turn out to be a bother. I don’t think they will. They can tell I need respite.
I wait beneath pale blue skies. The air crisp and wind strong, the full wrath of Winter Storm Ciara miles in the distance. The tracks tweak and pang to signal a soon arrival, I remember it will be hours before I’m back home. Despite being well-rested I’m slightly more irritated than usual at the constant opening and closing of doors. I make a mental note to drop this attitude before work. Perhaps around the time of minding the gap between the train and the platform, as I’m so often reminded.
My jacket is so thick it spills onto the seats beside me. Its collar pushed up against my jawline, serving as a neck rest when I tilt my head back slightly. I look like a Polar Bear. My eyes meet the stranger not two feet in front of me. He looks like Freddie Prinze Jr. In another life, we’re soulmates, the kind who drink coffee in bed on a Sunday and use words like “babe” and “CrossFit”. In this one, it’s five minutes later and I’ve forgotten all about him.
I feel a small sense of midweek victory. Two down, three to go. I shouldn’t wish the days away, even the in-between ones like these. “Nothing will be the same in a year,” I remember, squeezing my eyes shut so hard my face looks all crinkled. I take in the familiar rustle of newspapers, the slow sway when the train bends, the cool air as the doors part. I’ll grow to miss this I’m sure of it, and just like that, we’ve arrived at my station.