This piece of FutureLearn coursework is inspired – very loosely, if I’m honest (for a start, the character here is a woman, not a man) – by someone I often see at the railway station.
Chocolate bar wrappers, drink cans, crisp packets. Her litter-picking stick went click-clack-click as she squeezed the handle, picked up other people’s garbage, and dropped it into her black bag.
As she did so, she kept herself in a position where she could watch the passengers on the station platform. He wasn’t there yet. He was late. She hoped he wouldn’t miss his train. Although, if he did, he’d have to wait half an hour until the next one, giving her more time to spend watching him from the corner of her eye while she click-clack-clicked at the rubbish on the ground.
Each day he smiled at her. Everyone else looked straight past, too preoccupied with thinking about the daily grind that lay ahead. It was that smile that got her out of bed in the morning, that smile that made her able to put on this bright yellow high visibility jacket without crying (she worked mornings for crying out loud; wearing a jacket like this at 8am on a sunny June day made her feel like a right wally) and haul herself to work. That smile was, apart from her jacket, the only bright thing about her life.
8.15. The train was due in five minutes. Perhaps he was on a day off today. She hoped not. Not seeing him in the morning made her feel empty inside. Or perhaps he was just rushing his breakfast. She hoped he actually ate breakfast, he seemed to be getting a bit skinny lately. Click-clack-click. She watched her fingers squeezing the handle, stretching the dry skin on the back of her hand taut.
She wanted to ask him his name. She wanted to know where he worked. Does he have a girlfriend, a wife, children? What would she do if he did? She wasn’t sure. Was he too young for her, really? She was fast approaching forty, and he couldn’t be much more than thirty. But ten years wasn’t such a big age gap, not really, not these days. What does he like to do? What does he like to eat?
She’d been watching him nearly every day for four years now. She wanted, needed, to ask all these questions. 8.18. If he turns up today and makes his train, she told herself, then tomorrow morning I’m going to speak to him. I will. I will.
The 8.20 to Cheltenham screeched into the platform, juddering to a halt. As the doors opened and passengers spilt out, she cast her eyes towards the station entrance. And there he was, rounding the corner at speed, tall, slim, so handsome. And even in a rush, he still found time to catch her eye and flash that smile at her. Her tummy turned upside down, as it always did.
He strode between the doors, which shut behind him. The train took him away from her for the day.
She wondered what would happen tomorrow.