The Train

I rock backwards and forwards, slowly lolling in an uneven metre to the undulations and bends in the track. Above me, a rattling sound is issuing, the product of an ill-fitting luggage rack, empty. The fluorescent lights glare, jarringly from the pages of my book, I close its cover and rub my eyes to relieve the pain. The unmovable arm of my seat digs angrily into my right kidney, while the overweight gentleman to my left crowds me towards it. He coughs wetly into a ragged paper handkerchief all but dissolving it with the gruesome yellow discharge.

Four men sit around the table in the next row. They are all between forty and retirement, shirt and tie, but no jacket. One clutches a copy and of the Daily Mail and mutters unintelligibly as his knuckles whiten, his grip too passionate for such a flimsy publication. Occasionally he will point out for the others, some fresh outrage. They all tut, and shake their heads, remembering a time when things were better. A time that never existed.

Their talk turns to motorcars. They lament public transport, the noise they say, the incessant nattering of the passengers, the tinny music from over driven, cheap headphones. All the while, blissfully unaware that they are only ones making a sound.
One mentions fuel economy; the conversation turns into a blur of mileage and velocity, fuel consumption and prices. One man laughs, he likes to drive fast he says. If he dips below 80mph, it makes him angry. This man, it seems is always angry. Trains, slow traffic, cyclists, babbling partner, immigration, scroungers. He aims to emigrate when he retires, he says. Spain, or maybe Cyprus.

I glance out of the window. The configuration of my particular seat means I have scant four inches of window that I can actually see through. The sun is yet to rise.

The intensity of the rattling increases as the pitch of the engine matches some harmonic of its resonant frequency. It combines with the bitter aftertaste of the awful coffee I have just finished, to produce a mild and persistent nausea.

I manoeuvre myself carefully to unzip my bag, without disturbing the man who has no such empathy. I fish out my headphones and plug then into my phone. Perhaps some classical music to sooth my headache. I select Holst. The music is not on my phone currently it will stream from a digital copy of my library somewhere in the ether.

No signal, damn.

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