Trains of Thought
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XXXIV. Two trips, apart

This is a well-behaved train-set of passengers. A man with a colourful Amalfi coast themed shirt and a matching mask types noisily.

And there’s a mother with her baby. The baby babbles and sings. What’s going on, asks the mother? The baby starts exploring the top of a bottle with its mouth. Direct sensory contact. Singing a sort of whale song.

A girl on the table by the side has a water bottle with motivational text by the volume markers. It’s a kind of water clock with instructions on how much to drink by when. The last marker corresponding to 5 pm reads: “You’ve reached your goal, refill.”

In the privacy of her row, the woman quiets the baby and a man in round glasses with his hair tied into a little greying bun looks at the baby happily. His round glasses sit low on his nose by the mask. This avoids the glasses steaming up.

Outside, scrolling text on the outside of the train says “thank you NHS.” Once upon a time people stood in the streets clapping and banging on pots once a week to say thank you. Was it on Thursdays?

Over a month later the colour of the trains has changed. They are bright blood-red now.

Recently when I was looking for a train back from London, unable to find the familiar white and yellow with dark blue Great Northern decal, I thought I’d missed my ride home. The red train looked out of place.

The 8:24 is at half-capacity. There is a space next to most passengers. I find a table seat. The man diagonally opposite sits with his legs crossed. When you have your legs crossed like that you’re not in full control of them. As he moves his shoes swipe against my trousers. I move away even further. A white tuft of unkempt hair sits over largish ears. His beige bag is well-used and wrinkled.

Next to me on the other side, a man is working on a Thinkpad. He has set himself up over two foldout tables. The wireless mouse is on the foldout table next to his on a Japanese wood-cut illustrated mousepad. He wears a light blue sports jacket, a neat small pony tail and a standard medical mask.

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