The Girl on the Train

This was written half inspired by a daily commute and half by random thoughts of escaping from the daily grind. 

The electric doors hummed open and a blast of fresh air hit her in the face and she really believed for a moment that she might step off the train. She believed that she was ready to face the truth. The platform was grey, the skyline was grey, the buildings were grey– it was suffocating. Her head spun and she grasped the door frame trying to breathe, but the greyness was cloying. She heard the tutting and sighing in the distance as she blocked the exit with her bag in her hand.

People jostled past to get off and then to get on in the other direction. The doors hummed shut, protecting her from the greyness. The train was her safe place now. The platforms and stations started moving past the windows harmlessly, in their straight lines. They couldn’t get to her now. Mechanically she returned to her seat and clutched her bag on her lap. She sat bolt upright in her seat, staring at a spot of toothpaste on the man’s tie opposite. Keep breathing, she told herself. In and out, in time with the rhythm of the train. Focus on the spot to keep your balance. She felt like she was sitting on a fast moving tightrope and a slight lean in either direction would be fatal.

She sat stock still and weighed her options. Her journey had been so easy from the kitchen table this morning.

She started building the blocks up in her head again – endless justification of what she was doing. A new wall…not the same one as when she’d got on the train this morning full of good intentions. She’d missed her stop. She needed to justify it. She needed reassurance. It wasn’t the right time. She should send an email first, make an appointment. She couldn’t just turn up bag in hand. They were bound to be out anyway, so it would be a wasted journey. The blocks were starting to fall in place. She saw the train map above the man’s head and read the station names over and over in her head, like a mantra.

Outside grey turned greyer as the train careered on into the black city centre. How appropriate – it was raining. Just a damp drizzle. It suited her soul. Platforms rushed by without stopping. People stared miserably through the window into the warm train, willing it to stop and rescue them. The fluorescent lights and the warmth of the train was not just her safety zone – it was becoming her life line. What would happen when she reached the end of the line? It loomed up in front of her like a brick wall that she was hurtling towards. She started building the bricks again. Next move. Next brick on the wall.

She would have to get off the train eventually. Money – tick. Credit card – tick. Bag with change of clothes – tick. She wasn’t an eight year old girl walking to the end of the street with a back pack and a teddy bear. She was an independent woman. Job – tick. A living – tick. Family – . No block for that. Her wall started swaying again. She started reciting her mantra of train stations.

The toothpaste man opposite had been replaced by a wax coiffed suit-man talking on his phone. She heard white noise. Other passengers were glaring at him. She focussed on his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he talked. She noticed that his lips moved in time with the train. The woman next to him brushed her skirt down in time with the train. The stations ran through her brain in time with the train. It was soothing to feel like she was in sync with the world around her. It made her feel connected.

She needed to plan her next step. The last plan hadn’t worked very well. She would start again. That was the past now. A fresh start was what was required. The train was taking her to her future – it was like a whole month’s worth of therapy happening on the train. She should see where it took her. There was obviously a reason why she didn’t get off the train at her stop.

Plans were her forte. She liked detail and planned every second of the day. Executing the plans was slightly more difficult. Life seemed to get in the way. Her journey this morning had started according to her plan. Her plan had been to step confidently from the train and glide up the platform looking ever so elegant. The sun would be shining. Her hair and outfit would be immaculate. People would stare as she walked by and be impressed. A taxi would be waiting by the station exit to take her to her destination and… That was the past now though. It wasn’t part of the plan any longer.

She re-read the station list. She would get off at the end of the line and change to the Northern Line. The Northern Line would take her to Kings Cross and from there a train north as far as she could get. North was a good direction. She’d never been further north than Watford before. North was in a straight line and felt organised. She had a plan. She would go North. North was up. Up meant progress. You couldn’t just stay the same forever. The North would welcome her as a newcomer. They would love her quirky southern ways and her accent. She would find a castle to live in and a kilt-wearing laird to protect her. The plan was getting there. She started to relax. She was right to have stayed on the train. This was her future now.

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