He didn’t see a murder, or a secret kiss. There was no melodrama, disaster. It was just a journey where he saw himself looking back at himself from the rain-teared window of Carriage C Seat 12A Reserved. His seat. Booked online with the final dregs of a childhood bank account three days ago, the single ticket now in front of him on the table – a ticket with no return.
The boy in the window, the boy like him but not like him, stared at him knowingly. “What do you think you’re doing?” he sneered. “This’ll never work. You’re useless – this is just a joke, mate.”
“Don’t call me ‘mate’ – and leave me alone,” he responded silently. The boy in the window held his gaze with gold-flecked dirty blue eyes. The glass between them tracked rivulets of converging raindrops, pushed almost horizontal by the force of the speeding train. The slash of raindrops seemed to give Window Boy a silver scar across his lips. Hope that hurt, he thought; hope it made you cry.
Forcing his thoughts away from the sneering attention of that boy, he imagined what it must be like in the driver’s seat up ahead at the end of the long snaky carriages. It would be cool to see the tracks laid out so smoothly, so perfectly parallel, no complications, nothing in the way. Just think of the bullet-like power that could cut through banks of heavy air, force it to move out of your way, that could thrust itself into stillness and silence to create a beautiful mayhem of leaves, debris, dust – all swirling and dancing out of control until it had to settle again behind this magnificent force.
He realised he’d been holding his breath. The woman across the aisle glanced at him; looked away. He wondered if he’d made a noise (he sometimes did but didn’t know how to stop them when they just seemed to come from nowhere), and then he slowly released the air from his lungs, heart beating in rhythm to the pulse of the train on the tracks beneath him.
Window Boy rolled his eyes, his thin cold lips turning up in another sneer. “You know you’re mad, don’t you? Everybody else does. That’s why they give you the tablets. The ones, by the way, you haven’t taken today…”.
No, no, no – don’t listen to him. You can do this. Ignore him.
His hand brushed the fabric of the seat next to him and he flinched, screwed up his eyes, bit into his lower lip. Scratchy material made him anxious, but he was determined to follow through with his plan and a blue striped train seat was not going to undo him. Not this time. Secretly, he turned to see if Window Boy was laughing at him again and realised that it had stopped raining. Parachute clouds were clearing ahead of a pale winter sun and Window Boy was gone, or at least faded to an indistinguishable water-colour of his former hard-edged self.
He allowed himself a hesitant smile. The woman across the aisle picked it up and returned it. “I’m going to see my dad,” he said. She nodded. He looked again at his ticket on the table. Single.