I waited. Stuck behind a dark-haired greyed-out woman limply attired. We queued. And then I was at the glass. A £50 ticket secured my seat on the Glasgow-London night train. Last seat – not a reclining one – but I felt the god of travellers smile on me.
The atmosphere was jolly. Friday night return home for the middle-aged, whilst local lads headed south to party. Coffee caramelized in cardboard, lipstick smacked against wine glasses, beers cracked and, for the lone traveller, the mobile tucked up under a blanket of hair. Then the second round of beers arrived. Rather soon. And a third – but seemingly, barely minutes later.
My amiable neighbour leaned in closer. Friendly inquiries developed into increasingly intimate suggestions. I accessorised my mobile with head-phones and concentrated on the health and safety brochure, intent on strategic escape options in case of an accident. The tone changed. Resentful: “Oh, I s’pose you’ve got someone? Nice ones always have.” Maudlin: “What’s a bloke to do but drink if no one wants him?”
I sought the conductor and complained that I’d not been warned that my bargain ticket came with a liability. Helpful, he thought through his recent trip down the carriages and pictured only seats fully peopled; luggage racks bursting; small children wriggling and babies squalling. “Better off where you are!”
Resigned, I returned hoping my row-mate had been silenced by stupor – but confident that, if not, I could manage him; put him in his place and keep him there.
I’d been usurped. His posture had morphed from slump to animated lean-in; his eye stilled in concentration; his girth sucked into soft exchange. Seated in my place was a perky brunette: lash-lidded, comely in giving, falling cloth. Her mobile now discarded. My queue woman!
For the remainder of the journey I sat in her seat, opposite mine, where I had not seen her.
Images – freeimages.com