Drops of water chase down the window of the train. There’s a child, young boy, black hair, teeth, opposite me. He has one hand on the table and the other in his lap. His mother holds a rucksack, his rucksack, decorated with a smiling cartoon that I don’t recognise.
I follow the rain as it falters, mid window. It shivers as the train moves, but it stays stuck.
The child stares at nothing. His mother is restless. Her eyes are shadows. One hand gets a firmer grip on the rucksack. The other is everywhere. In her hair in one moment. In her handbag, the next, scrabbling for a tissue or a list or whatever mothers need.
There is a conversation about politics on the table next to me between a pin-stripe and a black-suit businessman. ‘I mean, it’s just ridiculous.’ and ‘I totally agree, they’re all wankers.’ etc.
I reach across and ask them for the time.
The woman opposite me checks her watch.
‘More like five past’
and pin-stripe does a half nod smile and ‘er, so yeah. As I was saying’
The child looks at me, straight into my chest. I smile at him. He stares into my chest, and I carry on smiling. He seems to be unaware of all the hedges, trees, sheep, buildings, metal, wood, metal jetting past his head. Smiling and staring, I see everything.
A lonely tree in an empty, green field. Its branches crawl across the dusking sky. Men where there are no men. Tricks of the light. Jumps and hands firmly in pockets. A man standing, bald. In the big windows. Still. and bald. And blue. The room was blue. A house reflection in the shadow. A whole pool of shadow. A leap. I almost-
The child looks at me, straight into my eyes. The mother’s a shadow, blind to the busy seats, the inane chatter and idle connections. As if I shouldn’t look at anything else.
He is browless. His eyes a light brown. I wanted to see a miracle. I just see colour, and a pit of black.
I turn my head towards the window. The rain has all gone. I missed the race. Now there’s just reflections. Reflections and trees and a purple moon, boy in the light with black hair, head shake faster and faster and fall, onto the table, mother with lipstick, through my eyelids a shatter, train slows and doors poft.
Train shudder. Just the sound of the train.
Eyes open, and I’m alone. I walk to the toilet, wash my hands. And I wait for the train to stop.