The London Commuter / by Charlotte Marriner

 

The other week, Carlo and I were heading home after some *free* city exploring, around the same time that normal people, with normal jobs, leading normal lives finish work. This disturbing coincidence, however, did not give me the heart palpitations you might expect. As we squeezed ourselves onto the train, a hundred strangers’ breath fogging up the windows as the entire carriage studiously ignored each other, I couldn’t help but smile a bit. This probably looked quite odd. Thankfully, everyone in London is well practiced in the art of Not Looking At People Ever. So I was safe. I smiled, because everyone thought I was just like them; heading back home on the dreaded commute across London after a long day’s work in the office - the rat race! Curses! - not that I was an unemployed bum who’d worn the same baggy jumper for the last three days and had, reaching crisis levels, spent the afternoon wafting around a gallery because It’s Good To Get Outside and even better to have a reason to shower. 

This made me feel pleasantly smug.

Basking in my fooled-you-all glow, hardly even minding that I was being inadvertently fondled by at least three people, I opened the newspaper with a flourish. Clearly, I was quite keen to keep up appearances. Yes, I can stand on a busy train and not have to hang onto the bars for support. I’m a professional. I do this all the time. (Just in case though, I hooked one of my arms round the pole in the middle and began reading the paper. Casual like.) Any minute now, someone was going to ask me a question about the train and if it was stopping at their station and I was going to blow their tiny little minds with my amazing local knowledge. As I sighed, quite audibly, a mouse with a velvet hairband squeaked: You’re hurting me.

Shit.

In my over-exuberance I’d managed to wound a fellow passenger. Was I standing on her? Was I stabbing her with my necklace? (I knew that would be a problem on public transport. Damn me and my love for chunky, Aztec jewellery.) Had my scarf wound its way around her little neck and begun to strangle her? These were all very real possibilities. Ish. But when I looked down, I realised that it was my newspaper. I had, accidentally, been resting it on her hands on the pole. That’s right. RESTING IT ON HER HANDS. Her gloved hands. And I was hurting her. Even though my face said, Are You Fucking Mad, my mouth managed to say something more polite, and I whipped the offending newspaper off her delicate paws. Luckily for her, someone relinquished their seat and she got to move away from me; the brute, the savage, and sit down a little further down the carriage. Unluckily for Carlo and I, we still had three stops before home where I had to maintain decorum, contain myself and not laugh like a drunken donkey at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.