Train

Long coated grey men wait for the morning train. There are young people, dressed beautifully for the day, not cowed or cynical. A hundred worlds cram into this rhythmic space. Businessmen, clerks, factory workers and students. The train is a great leveller because here we are all just passengers, going to our work, tired and irritable, wishing it was the weekend, reading our papers, laptops, magazines, phones. Texting, listening, daydreaming. Few stare from the window and watch the world. They’ve seen it all a hundred times without anything new. So we stare into the middle distance and avoid the eyes. No one speaks.

The train rocks along clacking and rocking and swaying into the world. I sit wondering if I am suitably inspired to do my best today.

There is a young woman opposite in a short skirt and a long scarf. I consider her for a moment. She is curvaceous with olive skin and dark almond shaped eyes and a Roman nose, she wears earphones and reads a magazine, oblivious to a young man watching her.

The train noise is louder as we flash past a station. A lady leans against a pole, irritated that school children haven’t given her a seat so I offer her mine. She gratefully declines and continues scowling. The kids ignore her and continue laughing at their private jokes.

Along walks the uninspired conductor. To do his job with enthusiasm would be too personal. The automatic voice tells us the next stop but we check the screen anyway.

I once saw an exhibition on old trains at the old depot. There were vintage trains there, turn of the century trains with women in wide hats and long dresses and porters and orderlies in flat topped caps, smoke and whistles and old platforms with steam blowing about. I remember the old red rattlers from when I was a boy and you could hang out of the window an let the wind blow through your hair. You could stand between carriages and smoke a cigarette. This isn’t one of those. This is the type where you can’t open the window.

I want to speak to someone, to connect and make a new friend. I want to chat up a girl who noticed me. I want to discuss the news I heard on the radio this morning as I dressed. I want to tell someone about my day ahead and my hopes for it. I want to talk about the war. You know, That war. An old lady is watching me. She looks too old to be going to work. I sense she in enjoying herself and the silent human contact. She is on a day out, an early riser like me. I want to reach out to her. Ask her how she is.

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