The doors fly open with a metallic
rush and the all too familiar cry rings out "Mind the gap
!". I shuffle out, shoulder to shoulder with the pressing masses, forced to walk penguin
-style for fear of stepping on the heal of the commuter
Then I spot it, the wavy brown hair, thicker at the top, thinning to fine, gossamer tendrils at the shoulders. I make a bee-line and side-step a lady in a black hat with a bag. If I weren't on a mission I would have let someone else in front who was waiting in a side queue, but I was focused.
We approach the stairs up from the platform, she is one away, with just a small, balding man wrapped up in a grey cotton coat with a long black umbrella, between her and I. One away.
The stairs fit 2-abreast, but people coming down force us into two and a half abreast, the pace slows and I get close. I can't see any more than the back of her head, her body obscured by the grey-man, her hair the centre of my attention. I can't see her face, the mass of people move as one, surging up the stairs, trying to break to the surface.
The crowd thins slightly at the top of the stair as the space opens up to the lobby. I place my feet carefully, ready for the opportunity where in two long strides I can step around grey-man and be right behind her. What does that hair smell like? Apples? Something exotic? Perhaps the musty smell of sleep, the feeling of warmth and security, the fuzzy cotton-wool that still permeated my own brain that early.
The chance came up, a gap on my left meant on the next step I could launch off my right leg, stride around with my left and then back to the right. I might even catch a glimpse of the mysterious face haunting me, teasing me, mocking me. Here we go. Suddenly there is a tall man in black on my left, his stride from behind somewhere took him right into the spot where I expected to be in my next step. I checked my stride quickly for fear of stepping into him. Did he have the same thoughts in mind as me? Can he see her face? A surge of jealousy swept over me. Mine, I shout inside my mind, I saw her.
The turnstiles approached. If I played this right, I could exit right behind her, this is where the crowd confusion played in my favour. I had a knack of being in the right place at the right time at turnstiles, being in a line which moved, whilst others were stuck behind people with insufficient money on their cards, or a ticket getting stuck. The probabilities, possibilities and calculations swum through my head.
She broke left suddenly, heading for a turnstyle 3 down, and with the tall-guy to my left and crowds behind I had no chance. That decided it for me. My only chance now was to get through my turnstryle before her, glance back, and see her. Take her with me in my mind for the 2-block walk to work. Where does she work? Where does she come from on the same tube as me? When she gets home at night, she lets herself into her quiet appartment, decorated with pink throw-rugs and fluffy pillows. Tips her head back and runs her fingers through that wavey hair and sighs. Her evenings are filled with romantic movies that make her cry, giggling with a girlfriend on the phone as she twists the cord around her slender finger. Eating icecream from the tub, and when it grows late, she makes little fists and stretches back, arching her back, and her white tee-shirt rides up revealing her tanned, slender midriff. I cut off there, leaving her some dignity, protecting the innocence and deepening the mystery.
I fly through the turnstyle, and look to my left. She is still in front! I angle left and take up step right behind her. Still no view of her face, still that hair, that liquid flow of her step, gliding her along untouched, aloof, not a part of the crowd, just a snowflake caught in the churning maelstrom.
We step out into the street, the cold wind hits and bites down like a tenacious fox-terrier. Does she turn left down the path that I must take, or stop at the street for the crossing? She walks towards the crowd waiting at the street, I delay my left turn, wait for it...wait for it... There! She glances up the street to the right, I catch a glimpse of a smooth cheek, pinked by the chill. She's looking at the traffic, she must look left. I step to my left and see her head turn. Here it comes, my breath catches, the wavey hair swishes aside and the world slows to allow me to catch the minutest detail. A hummingbird's wings would freeze at this point should one be passing by.
Oh grief, what a pig! What a waste of time that was! Oh well, had to try I suppose. I wonder what I'll have for lunch. Did I book any meetings for today? I wonder what's on TV tonight... I slope off to the left, following my well beaten path to work.
As I turn the first corner, I spot her. Blonde hair, cut shorter to a neck-length bob. A sweater and tight skirt with black tights...