The station is busy, but not packed. I hurry for my train - Platform 7 - with a driven purpose of catching my fast train home. My path crosses that of another likeminded soul and barely do I hear his muttered apology for our collision as I pass.
The clock ends in a number less than three minutes before the express will depart. I hurry onwards and head past the first train on the platform. Boarding the second train I find myself smiling, gratified, at the unusual sight of so many available seats.
The day has been long, spent half at a birthday celebration with friends whose company I love dearly, half with one single friend with whom conversation flowed easily and without brook or dam. I stow my rucksack and sleeping bag and sink into the welcome blue fabric embrace of First Capital Connect. When I get home I must remember to shave, and to put my boxer shorts in the laundry through a wash for the coming week.
The train leaves the station, underfull, and I take stock of my surroundings; the day has been too long to read the Philip K. Dick I have in my bag1. I turn my head to look around the carriage; across the empty aisle I am struck by the tired face of a young woman, travelling alone.
She doesn't meet my gaze as I glance downwards over her body, and see that her chest lies hidden beneath loose clothing - somewhere betwixt a a party outfit and travel clothes, a dark blue blouse partly covered by a black shirt meant for a boy. The shirt is too large for her, and with whimsy I suppose that it might be some artefact of an old relationship or friendship, these black cotton threads left behind long after the man is gone.
I look again at her face, blinking to focus in the night. Her eyelids flutter with the train's thrumming as it carries us homewards. Her forehead is high, and her hairline the wrong shape. Involuntarily I glance again downwards at her chest. Do the loose folds hide a reality or create an illusion? I turn away from the girl and look out into the black night as the signposts of a small town rush up and past. Finding nothing to hold me I turn back into the carriage.
Our eyes meet, and I cannot look away. Her mottled cheeks do not redden; I feel no embarrassment, though it is plain she knows I have been looking at her. She and I have seen each other on this train many times before; staring at each other through a window's glass, darkly.
1Actually, it was The Father Thing.