Once upon a time, trains in London used to be stuffed with people. Every now and then one found one’s head in some random person’s armpit. That Friday evening, my train was not too full. Every other seat was taken and a few people stood by the door.
He boarded at London Bridge and sat opposite me. We sat facing each other at either end of the long rectangular window, looking out at the dusk, in the typical way Londoners show consideration and give space to one another. I was on my way home after work. The skies were moody. I was glad to be released from the hospital after a long windowless day.
As my gaze shifted from the sunset outside the window to the seat across from me, I saw the young office guy with his neat brown hair, parted on the left side. Crisp white shirt and well-pressed grey trousers. Tense jawline. Fixed steely eyes staring through glass panes. Two vertical frown lines just above the bridge of his nose on a smooth white forehead. He looked sharp, a tense energy encompassed him like a taut canvas. It was palpable. He was, as if a statue with serious internal whirings.
The train was on the move now. My station was six stops away. I had noticed something I couldn’t ignore.
I wasn’t sure if I should do something. If yes, what?
If I did nothing would I regret it? Yes.
Could I fully trust my instinct? I wasn’t sure but probably.
Did it matter if I made a fool of myself by saying something? No.
He could get off the train at any moment so I had to make up my mind pretty quick.
Two stops had now gone by and he was still there. This was my chance. I leant in, my head closer to his, caught his gaze in mine and softly said – ‘Whatever it is, it will pass. I promise. It will.’
I went back to admiring the sunset as if nothing happened.
I didn’t look for a response in anyone. Nothing.
I left it there, feeling like a crazy old woman on the train who talks to strangers, my heart beating in my ears.
One stop later, from the corner of my eye I saw him get up to leave. I brought my eyes back into the coach and chanced looking at him as he stood by the doors. He met my gaze and gave me an acknowledging nod, his frown lines gone. I could have cried. I think I smiled and nodded back.
I was finally learning to trust myself to do the right thing.