There’s a man standing on the platform who looks like Damian Lewis. But he’s obviously not, he’s younger, a bit blonder and it’s not my luck to be at a train station with Damian Lewis. He’s fixated on his phone.
The lady to my left has long flowing brown hair. The sort of hair that you only normally see on L’Oreal ads that has been bought by emaciated Russians. I don’t think she bought it. She is texting frantically and has bronze, swirling embellishments on her brown shoes.
Ten people on the platform, including me, waiting for a London train. Eight of those, including me, have some sort of electronic device distracting them from the outside world. I am writing in a plastic covered, grey notebook with a turquoise pen. Pure white headphones snake up to my ears, bringing with them information about a 16th century French philosopher. I can’t remember his name as I write so I check the glowing screen of the replacement ipod. (Yes, I know it was fast, but I couldn’t face the marathon of train journeys I have in the next fortnight without it.) Ah, it’s Montaigne, I’ve managed to learn very little about him. I’m busy watching people. It’s essentially the purpose of this trip.
The two people unburdened by electronic distractions stand apart a little way down the platform. He stuffs his hands in his pockets, creasing the cuffs of his shirt, which has a slight damp patch around the neck where the rain has caught. He hunches over, looking down at the tracks and shuffles his left foot back and forth.
She is closer to me, moving restlessly to and fro along the same two metre length. She wring her hands, her gold ballet style shoes glisten in the muffled light. I wonder what she is thinking about.
An announcement over the tanoy breaks her concentration. I’m not sure of what it says, my train isn’t for 15 minutes so I’m half listening to an academic telling the others in the studio and me about how Montaigne was raised in a Latin speaking household to give him a head start in life. Cracking.
The woman steps back from the edge of the platform, brushing beneath her eye with a neatly manicured finger just a few seconds before a freight train comes rattling past, the wind it produces makes the woman’s neatly pinned black and gold headscarf flutter as she edges further away.
The deep rumble of the wheels on the tracks makes my stomach feel uncomfortable, its heavy bass rhythm making it dance to its beat.
A delayed train pulls up to our platform and I glance down to check I can read what I am writing. I check it over, one second, two, then hear the gentle whir of the train pulling away. They are all gone when I raise my head. Damian Lewis, Russian Hair, Hunched Man, The Lady with the Golden Feet.
The sky is grey, heavily burdened clouds gently drizzle over the tracks and uncovered edges of the station, the stones, the paving stones and yellow lines.
The bench is red metal on the other side of the tracks, the one I sit on is painted black wood, worn, chipped at the edges. A girl sits, frowning at her phone. Her cream white top matches her hair which is held back with a black and white polka dot ribbon. She wears pedal pushes and pumps, making her look like she’s from another time when combined with the ribbon in her hair. But then there’s the phone pulling her right back into the present.
In the filthy window behind her someone has drawn a smiley face. That’s something I’ve not seen in the half hour I’ve been here about from the Eastern European accented guard chatting to an old woman. Delays, rain, waiting. These things are the enemy of cheeriness and combined seem to defeat all smiles.
The man beside me taps his knees in time to an unheard song. I take a photo of the girl across the tracks. The red, white and blue are striking, even a week after a new prince was born.
My train is here.