The Train Ride

I breathed a sigh of relief as I slid into my seat, which was thankfully unoccupied. Plonking my belongings on the plastic table with the typical Monday-morning monotony. The familiar feel of the ridge where the seat had worn with time was a strange comfort. As the train clunked into motion, groggy as the bodies inside, my hand pressed deeper into the cushiony filling with the curiosity of a child.

***

Just in time. I catch my breath as the train pulls up. Fumbling for my ticket, a jangle of keys and coins, and relieved sigh puffs from my lips. I straighten it out, smoothing my fingers over the creases.

***


After sliding my glasses back up for the hundredth time, I dumped them on the table, perhaps a little too carelessly. The fuzzy shapes merged together like I’d dunked a painting in water and the colours had seeped into a blurry brown, vaguely resembling the original shape. I loved playing this game at night, driving through the city, watching all of the lights twinkle against the blackness.

 ***

The air is tangy with the scent of stale coffee. I scoot into the nearest seat. Beside me, behind the pages of a newspaper, is a wrinkled forehead. I wonder whether the wrinkles are from concentration or age, and settle for a bit of both. Still, the guy is oblivious to me. I shift my gaze, scanning the carriage like a bored child in search of amusement. Immediately a pair of dark eyes lock on to mine, peeking from under a thick, black fringe. Before I wonder why, my eyes wander to her mouth. Lips slightly parted, the kind of mouth that speaks without words. Just a creeping smile or tentative twist of the lips movement will tell you everything;. Her eyes are still fixed on me. She’s too far away to tell, but there’s a lost look in her. Is she daydreaming? She looks too resolute for that. Do I stare back? A wave of embarrassment flushes my cheeks. I fiddle with the ticket, smoothing out the creases. When I return my gaze she has gone.

***

My glasses bobbed up and down slightly as I hurried down the stairs. Curly black tendrils flew wildly in the wind. I’d missed my stop. A taxi was my only hope to get to the meeting on time. Why did I let myself lose track of time again? Between heavy breaths I let out curses. I needed to pull myself together. And start running.

The taxi driver asked a second time where I wanted to go. As I stared at the stranger in the car, who waited for my answer, forehead creased, I didn’t tell him the office building. Quietly, the name fell from my lips as I remembered. Jake.

***

I am walking. My legs take me to the space she left. It’s only on reaching it that I realise what I am doing. I stare at the seat, torn and faded, with stuffing poking out of the corners. Scratched into the plastic table is a wonky flower. An empty coffee cup and a newspaper. Peeking in the corner of the first page is a yellow post-it note. “Don’t be late for meeting! Bread. Cheese.” Then underneath, crossed out twice, “Break up with–.” Beside it, crossed out once, “Tell Jake.” Poor guy, I mutter. I slide into the seat, examining the long, cursive letters. My foot meets an object on the floor. A glasses case. The same looping handwriting is inside the empty case. Dorothy Poole.

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6 thoughts on “The Train Ride

  1. So intriguing. You really captured my interest with the two viewpoints–the way the first character is fleshed out by the other person’s observations, the way both characters are shown through the objects they carry and leave behind.

    Liked by 1 person

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