Welcome to another Sunday Sit Down. Grab a cuppa and a comfy chair and sit down to read. This short story is a flash fiction piece which was first published in Boyne Berries in March 2009. It is a story about self doubt, wanting and acceptance.
~~~ The Platform ~~~
The man wore a dark suit. It gleamed as though made from velvet but felt coarse to the touch from the years of wear, the sleeves were rubbed to thin thread, and the colour was ripe but fading in patches were stains washed off. The exceptional shine was probably caused by the hard and heavy hand of someone who ironed quickly and crassly. He ironed it himself she thought, as she hurried down the platform for the train. The creases on his shirt were wonderfully ironed in under his loosely knotted plain blue tie. A woman would take more care to iron out wrinkles.
She noticed him, weeks before, sitting there, awkwardly with a large flask of coffee in hand which he never drank out of, probably cold coffee, or warm soup for lunch and a man’s large windproof black umbrella loosely fed through his fingers, rain or shine, waiting on his morning train. Although, she never saw him get a train so wondered was he really waiting for one. She lost herself in thought, imagining ridiculously romantic situations where he waited for true love, for family reunions, for peace, for nothing at all but acceptance. Shrugging all thoughts she vowed to stop reading the Mills and Boons, for a while at least.
His social awkwardness was paramount. It was as clear to her as the train that was about to pull away from her. School children whispered insults and sometimes crudely yelled cruel interjections about his social ineptness and uncomfortable appearance. His legs jittered beneath him, rattling the loose change in his pocket, making the person who sat next to him nervous, and his dark black eyes dashed back and forth, looking, waiting or sometimes expecting something to happen. Something shocking she thought, because of the way he twitched in nervousness. His edginess made her think that maybe he knew something they didn’t, like maybe a train was about to crash, or the banks would all run out of money, or the heavens would fall.
* * * *
The lady wearing the tailored grey suit rushed past him as the train whistled to pull off. He watched her perfectly slender waist run down the platform, the open cream trench coat thrashing behind her as the brisk wind caught under the poplin lapels. She always ran, she was always late but she always caught the train, by a hair.
He was the only one who watched her. She did not stand out as such. After all, a hundred other passengers were running for trains on all platforms and it was not a sight to behold fondly. She was dressed much like any other women who worked on the tenth floor in a nice office with a Spider Plant or Weeping Fig waiting to be watered on their desk. He guessed she was in management, middle management, and probably would rather not progress much further from there. Despite being ambitious she was satisfied with her lot he surmised. She was professional that he had no doubt of, her neat brown briefcase wasn’t scratched and the number lock still worked.
Her face was average, beautiful, but did not scream attention. Light make-up emphasised the features of her face and her scent was natural mixed with a soft heat from the train’s engines. He caught her perfume only once when he almost managed to smile, nod and utter hello to her, failing miserably when she rushed past him as the train doors were closing on her, again. It was the closest he had been to her and her sudden and quick movements in passing him threw him off guard and he blushed, the blood throbbing in his temples, and he heard a heckling in the corner from kids. She didn’t hear them. Thank god, he thought.
She wore no wedding ring; she wore no rings at all in fact. Her hands were bare except for light sparkling nail varnish mounted onto clean fingernails. A neat manicure she gave herself, saving the pennies for a rainy day.
She hadn’t noticed him, or so he thought. She never seemed to look his way; she never seemed to look any way other than the train doors. Today was no different except in one way she was later than normal and the train was almost definitely going to leave without her.
* * * *
The whistle blew and she picked up the speed of her brisk walk, effortlessly lady like except for the warm bead of sweat that gradually drew on her brow. He hurried down the platform in an effort to keep the doors open for the women he could barely talk to. He threw his large umbrella onto the train to keep the doors from closing on her. In a vain attempt he thought the umbrella would catch between the doors and keep them open for the woman he so direly wanted to rescue. But with a loose flick of his wrist, the umbrella flew in the air sliding out of his hands, and landed in the centre of the aisle of the train, the doors closed briskly behind. As the train pulled off with his umbrella, waiting for a stranger to pick it up and take it home, the man and the lady stood and watched as the rear blew out hot steam and smoke around their ankles. He was without an umbrella and she, for the first time, missed the train.
Thanks for the effort, she said, smiled and acknowledged him.
Geraldine Walsh © Over Heaven’s Hill