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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