I am the man you pass in corridors, or walk by on the street: an unassuming example of conformity, avoiding challenge if he can, and letting duty be his guide, rather than expression. A man who knows his wife, as much as it is safe to do so; shares routines with her, and a love of documentaries and weekend walks and is thought by her, as far as he is aware, to be a kindly man, patient to a fault. And so I always have been year on year.
The train journey was unusual can we say. I travelling down to London for some meeting to do with work, armed with a newspaper, and glancing blankly at the scenery until the train began to slow, stopping at the next station on the line. The carriage was fairly crowded, but somehow I still had an empty seat before me, and thanked the fates for granting me the space to stretch my legs, until, that is, a women settled herself in it, separated by a table saying, “I bet you’re pleased to see me” and I looked up, slightly started, and said “Sorry!”
“You know” she said, “The train is bit crowded but you are enjoying the extra legroom until I come and sit right here, making you crunch your legs up. What a shame” I smiled at her, and said, “Life has few free pleasures, and leg-room on a commute is one of them.” Her eyes were soft and accepting and she looked at me with interest, as if I somehow stood out from the crowd. “What’s your life story then?” she said: the question was not invasive. More a sort of platform, a chance for self-expression, unheard of in the world of “also-rans.”
“I get along as quietly as I can and talk to passing hedgehogs,” I told her and she laughed a little so I asked he , “So what’s you story?” And she told me, she was off on an adventure, moving to the city and away from close inspection. ” I can’t imagine what that’s like I said” and she told me “You can do and be anything you want, and to hell with convention” I said, “I bet you’re happy”
“Oh yes, I’m going to be” she said , “And if you like, just because I can, I shall change your life for one minute only?” “Change my life” I said, “Oh no. Everything’s in order, I stay away from drama” but she said, “Not today. Today is for adventure. Wait two minutes and join me in the toilet” With that she smiled, as if she was talking about the weather and then rose up and walked along the corridor.
We know, don’t we, what any man should not do, or might do, and I did, don’t ask me why. I walked along the corridor, knocking softly on the door and she pulled me inside the tiny cubicle, and said “This is called kissing” and with that she pulled me to her. I swam in the exhilaration, and devil take the consequence until she said, “That’s it for now, or we’ll lose our seats” so we returned, looking slightly flustered and just in time for the inspector to shout out “Tickets please”. We smiled at each other, two naughty children, and I reached out to touch her, but she withdrew her hand.
At our destination I said “I won’t forget you. I wish I could be with you” and she smiled and said. “This is your adventure. Keep it safe within you, and when others call you boring, think of me and say, I kissed a girl on a train.” With those words she left me, no address given, she offered only moments, but the memory of that encounter, became my secret reservoir.