Sunday, 1 September 2013

From Charing Cross to Sevenoaks

It's late afternoon, the end of a summer Sunday and the train is full. We sit quietly, each a little tired, each perhaps thinking about the film we've just seen.

I look out of the window, watching the jumble of office blocks give way to the backs of houses, seeing the concrete yards become gardens that gradually get longer and greener. I wonder about all the people who work in those offices, live in those houses and play in those gardens. I think about the girl from the film. So many different lives; chances taken and missed, opportunities grasped and squandered, promises made, words spoken and regretted.

A woman sits opposite me, leaning against the window. Her arm is loosely draped around the daughter who's half sitting, half lying across her mother's lap . Next to the girl is a young boy, maybe six years old. He sits cross-legged, tidy, taking up hardly any space. I imagine him sitting on the carpet at school, listening closely as his teacher reads a story, trying hard not to miss a word. He's holding a small bag of sweets, slowly licking and nibbling at each one, as though trying to make them last the whole journey home.

Across the aisle are three teenage boys, each wearing the football strip that betrays how they've spent their afternoon. They're talking at each other, across each other. One bites into a burger, another shovels in a fistful of thin chips. The third takes his shoes off, and rests his bare feet on the empty seat opposite. I try not to think about the trace of adolescent sweat they'll leave behind.

"I want Mummy to sit in the middle" says the six-year-old, pulling my attention back to our side of the train carriage. "Then I can have a cuddle."

"You can have a cuddle when we get home" his mum offers. "And I'll read you a story."

She looks across at me and smiles, and I wonder if she realises how lucky she is.  I glance again at the football fans, their shirts tell me they support the same team as my sons. I try to remember the last time I sat on a train with my boys, or walked along the street holding a small hand in mine.

And I want to tell her to cuddle him now. I want her to know that all too soon, her tidy little boy will be six foot tall and too embarrassed to hug. I want to urge her not to miss her chances, but I don't. Instead, I look at the boy, who gives me a huge grin, and then I smile right back.

14 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

This is beautiful. Thank you. (And I wish that a trace was all the adolescent sweat transferred to the seat. A flood is more likely.)

Jan said...

I think this post goes well with a cup of coffee. A perfect combo to lift my dreary Monday morning. And it does. A minor miracle. Thanks for this piece of writing. Simply marvelous.

Jan said...

I think this post goes well with a cup of coffee. A perfect combo to lift my dreary Monday morning. And it does. A minor miracle. Thanks for this piece of writing. Simply marvelous.

Delores said...

This is why I take all the granchild hugs that are offered...soon they will be all grown up and I....

Hillary said...

Beautiful. Your pieces are always so short but really satisfying. How do you do it?

Mary-Colleen said...

I love this. I also wonder how you manage to write pieces that so fully mirror the thoughts I have recently had myself. It's uncanny how often that happens. How beautifully you renderthese moments.

Jennifer said...

Aw, this was so beautiful. :) Your pieces always make me want to look for stories in front of me more.

Zainab Ummer Farook said...

Short and (bitter)sweet, especially the last paragraph. Loved reading this.

ElGuappa said...

Someone tweeted this and I was compelled to read. Evocative and lovely. Thank you.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Yes! My 6-year-old grandson climbed onto my lap this past week for a lovely extended cuddle. He melts my heart. He has no idea that some day he'll be "too old" for this, and I'm not about to tell him.

Chef Files said...

Priceless in your description.

theplantgardener said...

quite lovely~

Caro (UrbanVegPatch) said...

I've come across your blog via Elaine at Ramblings from Rosebank and will be returning to read more. Your story reminds me so much of when I went up and down on the train between Waterloo and Hampshire, thinking about other people's lives. I totally agree with your sentiment about cuddles - make the most of them now, adults have a different perspective of time than children do.

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