I looked at my watch as I walked down to the platform – precisely on time as always. There were two minutes until my train was going to arrive. Not too late, but not too early either. I found an empty spot at one of the benches and unfolded my newspaper, but found myself distracted by other thoughts. Eventually the train arrived and I stuck my newspaper into my brief case and headed for the doors. An old grey-haired woman was standing in front of me, and as the automatic doors opened she slowly took a step towards the gap between the platform and the train. I walked up beside her and silently offered her a hand. She put her wrinkly hand in mine and carefully stepped into the train. As the doors closed she looked up and smiled at me, the kind of smile that reaches all the way to the eyes. She didn’t say anything, because nothing needed to be said. I understood that her smile was a thank you, and I nodded slightly in return before I walked into the compartment and found myself a seat.
Sometimes people surprise you. You judge them by how they look, but they turn out differently than you thought and you find yourself surprised. That’s what happened that morning with the gentleman in the suit. I expected him to be just another businessman on his way to work, but he surprised me by actually paying attention to the world around him and giving a helping hand. As usually, my attention fell on the conductor as he walked down the aisle, asking people to see their tickets. From far away the conductor would look like him. But as he passed row after row of seats, and eventually stopped in front of me it would get clearer and clearer that it wasn’t him. This conductor didn’t smile as much, and he didn’t have that way of walking that showed he was proud to do his job. I often found myself thinking about him, every single day actually, but especially whenever I took the train. People tell me it makes sense because he worked on the train, but I still don’t understand. The trains today are nothing like what they were when he worked there, and I barely ever saw him on work. And still I find myself missing him even more than usually when I sit by myself on the hard train seats.
He was there again, sitting on a couple of newspapers at his usual spot in the end of the train. A couple of empty bottles were standing on the floor beside him, and a new one in his hand. He didn’t seem too drunk yet, he was just sitting by himself on the floor, clearly lost in his own thoughts. But he wasn’t the worst of them. He usually didn’t bother the other people on the train or started yelling because I told him to leave the train if he didn’t have a ticket. He wasn’t one of those that really made me want to quit this job. So that day I decided not to bother with him. It was almost Christmas, so why not show a little kindness. Usually he would be staring out the window, or looking at his bottle, but this time he seemed to be looking around on the other passengers, not staring impolitely, just looking.
He put his big earphones on, and put his feet on the seat in front of him. I used to be like him. Young and reckless! I didn’t care what other people thought about me, or even what they said to me. He searched around in the pocket of his hoodie, and drew out one of these advanced things kids have nowadays that can play music, and play games. Not like the things we had when I was young. When he seemed to be content with the music, he looked around on the other passengers. There was a girl sitting not too far from him, and his gaze stopped at her. I knew the look in his eyes. It wasn’t that hard to tell what was going through his head, I mean he was a young guy, and she was a beautiful girl. She looked a little bit like the girl I used to gaze at like that. I put my bottle down and turned my head the other way. I couldn’t start bringing out these memories. They hurt too much and I needed too many bottles for them to go away again.
I turned the volume up, and put my iPod away. There was a girl sitting a couple of seats away. The kind of girl you can’t help but look twice at. At first she looks good, maybe even beautiful. But when you look closer there’s something else there. Something you can’t really put your finger on, but it makes her interesting, and you don’t want to look away. She was wearing a flowered dress with low boots, a faded green winter coat and a woolen scarf. I wanted her to look my way, to smile at me, but she was just staring out the window, occasionally looking around. I decided to go talk to her at least a hundred times, but every time I would change my mind. I don’t know why, it was just something about her, and the way her green eyes seemed lost in what was on her mind. As the next station got announced over the speakers she seemed to snap out of it. She took a quick look at the little girl who was sitting in front of her, almost as if she hadn’t noticed her, before she grabbed her bag and hurried out of the train before the doors closed.
My friends and classmates usually asked me how I could stand that train ride without having an iPod or a book or anything with me. But it never bothered me. Sometimes I would look around on the other passengers, and in my head I would create a story about who they were, and where they were going. Other times I would just sit and look at the world passing by the window in a blur. This day I didn’t feel like creating characters out of the people I saw. I just looked out at the city rushing by, my fingers fiddling with the little gold pendants on my bracelet. My favorite was the little house. I got it from my mom many years ago, and she gave it to me so that no matter where I was, I would always have something to remind me of home. My station got announced over the speakers and I got my mind back to where I was. There was a little girl sitting in front of me. Her hair was hanging down her back in two long brown braids, and she was wearing a yellow rain jacket with bright green rubber boots. It was almost like looking at a picture of me when I was at her age. I picked up my school bag, and made it out to the door just in time as the train arrived at my station.