by Cath Bore
It’s Friday morning, 8am, rush hour. I’m at the train station. The weekend is eight or nine hours away. Commuters stand elbow to elbow, jostling for position, and the tight corner of a briefcase scores into the fleshy part of my calf. I’m grateful I didn’t have any tights clean this morning ‘cos there’d be a sodding great ladder in them by now. In front of me a woman has a toddler squatting in a too small stroller, what they’re doing here and at this time is anyone’s stupid guess. The toddler screams, scratching the air with pitchy squeals. People stare and the woman rolls her eyes, shrugs, and mouths kids, eh? But she enjoys the attention, lapping it up. She dips down, and pats the child’s head.
It’s then I see thee, on the platform on the other side of the train track. I see thee, head down, neck bent, and reading a book. I see thee smiling at a word on the page or a sentence or maybe a paragraph. It might be clever wordplay or a string of witty dialogue making you happy, a character taking you somewhere special and nice; either way, you’re enjoying it. I hope you’ll see me, but I don’t wave or shout or make it obvious. I let fate decide and, exactly as I hope, you look up. But you don’t make me out, your glance more of a dance and flitting from face to face, yet it doesn’t settle on me. Someone comes. You see them all right, and close your book with a snap and a smile. You lean in so close that when they speak your eyelids blink and flutter at the puffs of air coming from between their lips. I soften my gaze to save myself, and when it sharpens again you’re back in your book, alone and frowning this time, two black vertical creases between your brows. More than anything else, I need to know if it’s them leaving, or something in the book that’s pissed you off. Or maybe it’s them being there in the first place. I should’ve kept watch.
Between where you stand and where I stand is not that big a distance, as the crow flies, and there’s a bridge over the track, one with a short staircase up and down. The muscles in my legs tighten and tense before my brain has time to think. They’re saying go for it. RUN.
It won’t take long. You aren’t far. You’re closer than the weekend. But a train pulls in, cutting between us, slicing our world into two. People around me move, and quickly. They lunge and punch forward in a solid block, stealing my air, shuffling, twisting, turning, cramming themselves greedily in between the narrow doors. When they’re gone, and the train’s gone, and the noise is gone, so are you. There’s flat empty concrete where you stood, like you were never here in the first place. The entire platform is clean, empty of anything and anybody. It’s rush hour, after all, and everyone has somewhere they have to be.
Cath Bore is a writer of fiction and fact in Liverpool, published in Mslexia, NFFD anthologies, Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class (Dead Ink Books 2017), DUSK: Solstice Shorts (Arachne Press 2018).