Oh goodness. This is not what I needed.
Mary rings. "Hi Mary," I say.
"How are you?" she says.
Not bad. The perfect couple across the tracks kiss. "Good," I say. "Thanks."
They have children, the perfect couple, and like me they are waiting for a train. They all watch the monitor with hope, though the parents try not to look confused and lost. The children sit on the suitcases, eyes squinting at the screen for the slightest flicker from the screen entitled 'EXPECED 20:19.' They've been there for ten minutes, not as long as I have, but they shouldn't be here.
Somewhere a floor cleaner hums, but it's far away. It's quiet in here. The ceiling stretches for miles and threatens to explode with sound if you even whisper: art gallery style. It feels like one of those places were it would echo if you made noise, but it might not really, it just feels like it - no one knows this because they keep quiet.
"I'm bored," Mary tells me. "This house is dull. There's nothing here." I am bored, and I have every right to complain: I am waiting for a train. Even the air smells bored.
The perfect couple hold hands and have been looking at each other on and off in the loving way that old couples do. They are used to each other, and they seem to talk without speaking. Which is almost sickening, but in a way pleasant to watch.
Someone whistles. It hits me in the ear and I glare, assuming it is the tramp that has been networking around the station like at a cocktail party. He stays nowhere for long. I assume he is looking for his dog, but no dog comes so maybe he is mad. Maybe the dog is dead, and now there is no one left for the tramp to be friends with. Or maybe the dog is just missing.
I look at the perfect couple again. The woman sees the children sitting on the department store suitcases and she tells them to move in muted sounds. They do. The suitcases are perfect again. I sit on a metal bench.
Their train should have come and gone with them on it by now. The children look as bored as I would expect any child waiting for a train to look. There is nothing unusual here. The smallest puts his thumb in his mouth, but the woman pulls it away in a quick movement.
I arrived invariably early. When I travel I spend my day frantic, panicking and feeling disorganised, and I arrive at the station too early. This is a general practice of mine, though not intentional.
The woman has a skirt on. It is A-line and makes me think of the 1950s. They would be a postcard American family with baseball in the yard; a regular Babe Ruth. Dinner would be on the table at the perfect moment, and everyone would have red socks. It would smell of apple pie. That's what makes people happy. They are the American movie.
Take a running jump, Mary. "Mary, Mary," I sing-song. "Find something to do." Mary does not have a job. I do.
"There's nothing. My life is empty. I want to go shopping." Maybe she could buy an A-line, but she knows there is no money right now.
"Get a hobby." I bet the perfect couple do not have this trouble. I wonder if they argue without talking too.
The woman and her husband exchange looks. He moves closer to her. They watch the monitor together. It reminds me of a nativity play. I am someone who heard noise and came to look around the stable door.
The older child looks at the woman and mumbles - he must be talking. I do not hear; the two train lines separating us make it hard to do so. The woman looks at her husband, and they mumble to each other, and the woman turns and walks away and the little boy follows.
"I tidied your house," Mary says hopefully.
"You didn't touch my files did you?" My desk is a mess, but it doesn't need tidying. That would make my day darker and more confusing than it currently is.
"No," she answers quickly. "I know you don't like them to be touched."
"What are you doing today?" I ask. I force conversation, because it helps, and it is less hassle when I sound interested. I quite like the noise in the background too. It is something to listen to when there is noting better to do. Mary can be useful like this.
"I'm having lunch with Janice." Janice is a neighbour. I do not talk to her. She is busy when her husband is home anyway, and thankfully her husband coordinates his arrival at home with mine, so neither of us has yet had to make polite conversation. I do not like care for polite conversation.
The father looks at the other boy for a moment and mumbles, and the other boy nods, and runs after the departing family. The father goes to the metal bench and sinks. He suddenly looks tired. I am not really listening now. I look at him, and when he relaxes I suddenly realise he has been tense. This makes me sad.
"Lovely beef on Sunday, so today I thought it would be nice to have casserole and some nice vegetables," she says when I listen again. I am not much interested in cooking. I think about the perfect couple. I bet she does not talk incessantly about things he does not care about. I don't recall Mary being so dull. Maybe it is because she is on the phone, or maybe because I haven't spoken to her for a while.
"I have to go," I say. The family return and the man stands up again. I pull my book from my bag and read it. It is called War and Peace. I like Andrei Bolkonsky. He is a character in my book and he makes me smile. He doesn't much like being marred either.
When I have finished reading my book, my fingers hurt a little from holding the pages. I stop reading when my fingers hurt because my attention span does not stretch far beyond the time this takes. This, I have found, is a very clever way of knowing when to stop reading.
I look about, and find that the perfect couple are still here. They look more tired. The husband is sitting on the bench again, the woman is not. He reads The Times. I also read The Times. I find it is a sensible, traditional paper for people of sensible values. I also like the extra pull-out sections on a Sunday.
I look at my mobile: Mary has not called. I think about going to toilet, but remain seated. I wonder if such things are worth twenty pence, or around that. Spend a penny seems to have met inflation.
I mutter curses to myself in silence and organise my War and Peace book into my bag. I am careful with it. Poor Andrei Bolkonsky does not need any further hassle in life, I feel.
There is a noise from across two lines of train tracks. It is a loud noise. I look up and the smallest boy looks sad. He walks away a little and sucks his thumbs in privacy, away from the noise. I pick my bag up and walk to the toilet. This means I will pass the happy couple, but I concentrate on my short route, looking away. I do not hear any more loud noises.
The toilets are free. This confuses me, but they are ugly and poorly attended from the looks of it so this may be why. There is also a dog in here. I hide in a cubicle from the dog. It is a not a very nice cubicle, but I does not have a dog in it so I use it. When I come out, the dog is gone, and I wonder if the flushing toilet made it run away. The idea of a dog fleeing a public toilet amuses me. I smile to myself, and wash and dry my hands on driers that seem to be better wall decorations than hand driers. It takes some time. I wonder if perhaps I am gaining any muscle from holding my arms out. It seems very military-like.
When I come out I see the perfect man going into the toilets. He shoulders are slightly slumped in a lazy walk. When he walks past I don't see his face, because I do not look.
I see the tramp and his dog. They sit together looking happy, watching nothing go past. I also wonder how a dog can look happy. It is the same silly looking dog from the toilet. It smiles and hits its tail against the floor pointlessly. The thumping noise does not echo. The dog makes me a little bit happy because he is making noise and is so happy about it.
I find a metal bench by the display monitors. There are ten of them, and they are black with yellow writing. Most of them read 'ON TIME' but some of them don't. I look across and I can see the perfect woman from here. She is sitting on the metal bench with her children. They sit subdued.
Closer, from here I can see the perfect woman's face. I stare. There are faint red marks; dry scoops were the skin is worn under her eyes. The tired half-circles run along the dip under her eye and do not look new. They are the marks where she has been rubbing her eyes from what is most likely crying. I wonder if the skin is broken, because then I could tell how prolonged it is. I wonder if it hurts, a reminder, inside and out, that she has been crying. I wonder why she is not happy.
My phone vibrates. Mary calls.