Saturday, January 17, 2009

On the train to Brighton

Mid-morning, not a lot of people about. Each traveller has his own little section of seating. A yout steps on the train and goes through the interlocking doors to the next carriage, leaving the door swinging. I get up to close it, sharing a friendly look of mild exasperation - "the young, eh" - with the old guy across the aisle. The train leaves Blackfriars. As it squeaks its way through London, with the enthusiasm of a teenager sent to write thank-you letters to his delapidated aunt, the door swings open again. My neighbour takes it upon himself to close it, and once again we share a friendly look of mild exasperation - "doors, eh." After East Croydon the train begins to speed up, and the door, suffering from a clearly inadequate latch/keep configuration, starts to swing open sporadically. I close it, and catch my accomplice's eye once more - "latch/keep configurations, eh." He closes it, and catches my eye. He closes it another time, and catches my eye once more. Suddenly, I am concerned. There is no more to share, yet the eyes continue to pass on mild exasperated glances. But there is nothing new. Yes, we are two concerned citizens, yes we are both responsible adults, in a world of malevolent children, yes we are both capable of closing a door, but that's it. The glances have conveyed their intent. They are gently gliding into the realm of the unnecessary, the unusual. I move to close the door again but this time my eyes are suddenly intently fascinated by a dog which cavorts in a field by the tracks. What kind of dog is that, I practically say out loud. Oh, its a border collie, how incredibly unusual. It's his turn to shut the door, the sharing of the glance is restored. As we near Brighton I start to worry: do I have to say goodbye to him? We've shared glances, it is true, a few more than strictly necessary, it is true. Do I bid him adieu? Is a final glance appropriate? What if he doesn't think so? I feel pressured, hemmed in by the twin poles of polite behaviour and innate misanthropy. I feel like an episode of Seinfeld. Perhaps he'll get off before Brighton, I think to myself hopefully. But at Preston Park, the penultimate station, he makes no move to gather his bags, nor to put his coat on. He merely leans over, shuts the swinging door and once again a glance is shared. At Brighton station, I pause, thinking that if I sit here long enough, he'll have to leave first and he can offer the goodbye glance or not. I don't mind, I'll be happy either way. But he takes too long gathering his stuff and the carriage empties and I can no longer justify sitting in my seat, so I leap up, pass him without a glance and follow the arse of the pretty girl with too much slap down the platform and into Brighton.