Mourning On The Metropolitan Line


I’m not sure how long I had been asleep with my eyes open but when I resurfaced from my stupor they were dry. I let the lids close and inhaled, then blew out stale garlicky air. I yawned. The strip of heat still ached across my forehead.


I opened my eyes and was surprised to find everybody gone. I hadn’t noticed them alighting, but as we arrived at each station they had dribbled away like the rain was doing to the window opposite me.


It was then I became aware that the tube wasn’t moving. I was no longer being soothed by its swaying. We were sitting somewhere, in the dark, in a storm.


The locator boards said in unison the next stop was to be Chalfont & Latimer.


My body reluctantly stretched and pulled itself up to sit properly for a while and the carriage lit up. I wondered if the flash could have been lightning - answered by a rumbling, rolling thunder, bouncing down the whole length of the train.

The rain drew my attention once more as it pounded the glass like bad radio reception. I altered my focus and saw myself - such a tired face staring back. Gaunt and grieving. I had bags under my eyes, messy hair, crumpled clothes. And the seat next to me was empty.


Vacant.


Yet I still expected to see her dozing, her head resting on my shoulder, her hand placed on my thigh.


When the whole space lit up around me, for that instant I saw her face outside the window. I recoiled in shock. Thunder crashed around me and I yelled her name. She had been there - looking back at me. Then it happened again - her features mouthing my name and looking so sad. Tears blurred my vision as I hurled myself at the glass. I panted and strained, my hands clawing for her. I wanted to see her again. Those blue eyes, that hair and nose and those lips and her smile. Her sweet, loving smile. Just to feel her touch once more, to hear her voice.


The thunder’s roar consumed me as, unashamed, I sobbed, groaned, contorted with the awful heavy weight in my chest.


At that moment, the onward journey commenced and we left the storm behind.


I recomposed myself and thought of this morning, as today would have been her seventy-fourth birthday. We would have waltzed round the living room and laughed. I had bought her a cake, a Victoria sponge. It was her favourite. I lit a tiny candle and watched as it burned all the way down.


I reached into my breast pocket and produced her wedding ring, gaining comfort by holding it close. Even if this moment had been a bad dream, a bizarre trick of a mourning mind, this small silver circle reminded me that she had been real and we had loved each other for so much of my life.


Like this train, life, of course, goes on.



(First published in The Chesham Writers' Group's short-story collection Metroland Miscellany - autumn 2014)

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