As the outside shoots past my grubby window, I take in my fellow travellers. I know where I’m going, of course, and they are going somewhere too, somewhere that requires them to pack a sandwich and a bottle of mineral water, pick up their book or kindle, their music machine and their mobile phone, just as I did first thing this morning.
I unpack my picnic and sigh quietly (I am in the quiet coach) at the squash of bread and lettuce and crumbly cheese, all gloopy now with the mayonnaise smearing up the window of my cleverly designed sandwich bag with a seal-again top, which I can never seal again, by the way. You have to match the tram lines or it just won’t seal and it always ‘just won’t seal’ under my fingers. I could put my specs on, but decide, instead, as I am too hungry, that I won’t bother. I’ll just post it into my mouth in fingerfuls and chew it…..quietly.
The woman across the way from me is texting. She has been texting for 40 minutes now and her buttons must be quite worn out. Her keypad pings with each letter and she obviously can’t spell because, every so often, I hear her puffs of exasperation escape into the warm air of Coach B. The man behind me has a dry cough, and I feel the punch of each one hit my shoulder as if he is firing peppercorns between the seats. I shift a little, although I don’t want him to think me rude.
And then there are the whispering people, who hardly move for fear of breaking the rule of silence.
Where are they going? I begin to wonder. Are they going to or from? Is one of them running away, or running towards something or someone, and is there hope in their hearts or the foetid drudge puddle of exhausted defeat?
Do they love and are they loved? Do they sing or write or make the best parsnip soup in the village? Do they have regrets?
I like to answer some of my questions myself, for I could never speak them out into the polite air of the quiet coach. I pretend the man with the cough has finally walked out on his over-bearing wife, having told her the thing or two he’s been wanting to tell her for years. That’s why he has a cough now. His vocal chords are astonished.
I continue this reverie, developing it to such a degree of joy and happiness on his behalf, that it’s all I can do not to swing round and congratulate him. Instead, when its my turn to leave, I flash him my widest smile and alight, minding the gap.