The woman sitting opposite me is sobbing. I didn’t even notice for the first half of my journey. She’s hunched over her phone in a text conversation with someone and, while she waits for a reply, she dabs her nose with a balled-up tissue and absently wipes tears from her cheeks.
The other passengers in the carriage are staring everywhere but at her.
I move forward, gently patting her knee and she looks up at me with dark-ringed, bloodshot eyes. I offer an expression that says, I don’t know what the problem is but it’ll be okay. She half smiles as I hand over the tissues I’ve managed to pull from the bottom of my bag. She mouths ‘Thank you’, before returning to her phone screen.
I move forward and rest my hand on her knee but she flinches and glares at me with a look that shouts, What the fuck are you doing? I snatch my hand back as she looks to the people around us for help but they’re cocooned in their own private worlds. I smile awkwardly, trying my best not to look like a sex offender and hold out the tissues I’ve retrieve from my bag as a peace offering. She stares at them and leaves my hand hanging in the space between us. The train carriage closes in around me.
For the remainder of the journey she types furiously on her phone. At one point she tilts the back of her phone up towards me. I’m fairly sure I’m now the topic of conversation on social media.
I think about moving forward and tapping her knee. I could catch her eye and smile, maybe tell her that it will be okay. I could give her the packet of tissues from the bottom of my bag. I could ask if there’s anything I can do. But I don’t. I do nothing. Social acceptance forces me mind my own business, along with everyone else in the train carriage. I hope that she gets off soon because feigning ignorance is harder to maintain on the longer journeys.
[Originally published on Dog-Ear magazine, January 2018.]
This flash is another piece about a frustrated train commuter that links with ‘Non-Transferable’ ‘Limbo’ and ‘All Change’ that were previously published by on my blog, by The Drabble and Maurader Lit.