My station is announced and I look up from my book in confusion. I’m sitting by the window; on the seat next to me are my coat and overnight bag. I’ve become used to the sway and the warmth of the train; I’m not ready to arrive.
I had a lot to drink last night and somewhere in the back of my throat there’s the taste of it still. There’s no pain, but there is a certain haziness, a wooziness, and everything seems to be happening at a slower speed than normal, or in an unusual way.
I hadn’t seen my friend for several years; we spent the evening in the pub, making frequent trips to the bar. I became increasingly euphoric, the way people in pubs do when there’s a lot to say and everything that’s said leads to another memory.
We approach the station and buildings slide into view, the stone yellow in the winter sunshine. The train slows and I am gripped by a fear that I won’t have time to pack everything up, and that fear prevents me from packing everything up.
The platform appears and the fear gives way to panic. I take off my glasses, put them in their case, stuff it in my bag with my book and pick up my coat. The train shudders to an uncertain halt and I stumble along the carriage towards the door.
I step down onto the platform and I’m met by the cold. I follow the worm of passengers down the stairs and out through the turnstiles. Outside the station it’s even colder; there’s no snow, no ice, but the pavements and the roads are a matt white.
Passing the hotel on the corner I remember staying in Budapest, years ago. There was snow then. I remember going out to find second-hand books and coming back through the slush to the hotel, in thick coat and scarf and gloves, my face burning with the cold.
I spent Christmas in Tokyo once. I slept on the floor of my friend’s tiny flat and kept my thermal underwear on all week. We ate sushi and shared big bottles of Kirin beer. The sky was clear every day and the sun shone down on my young skin.
In the middle of a small square I look up, into the sunlight, and see a couple in big, puffy coats, on the top deck of a tour bus. They are talking together, then they smile, lean forward and kiss, and I think of my girlfriend.
I realise that I am no longer alone; a stranger in a place I do not live, or bent over a book on a train between stops. I am back home and I will see the people I know again; some of whom I like, some of whom I love. And everything will begin again.
Some years ago I had an office job, more recently I’ve been a stay at home father. I am currently doing a PhD in creative writing at Bath Spa University, having completed an MA there in the same subject in 2010. I’ve recently had a short story – The Man on the Bench – published on Notes from the Underground and I blog and tweet intermittently.