As her train approached, she took a deep breath and readied her smile. A few months ago, a colleague of hers discovered that they both lived along the same train line. He soon became another of her constants on her morning commute, but instead of blank stares and averted gazes, he always greeted her with a smile and a nod as he said hello. She always returned the gesture.
But, this morning, he was not there.
She walked down the carriage, discreetly searching the crowd for him. They always met in this carriage — it’d be too hard to find each other otherwise. But among the suits, the ironed shirts and horn-rimmed glasses, she could not find him. She considered moving to the next carriage to look for him, but the train was always much too crowded.
She sighed and pulled out her phone to send him a message, asking if he’d missed the train this morning.
In truth, there was a part of her that was relieved to not see him and to have been unable to find him. She put her phone away. Sometimes the company of others became suffocating to her; she grew claustrophobic. She needed regular bouts of solitude to reset her mind and her emotions. Although the train barely had enough breathing space, she didn’t feel claustrophobic at all.
Eventually, the train emerged into the downpour outside. The rain seemed to be making the clouds angrier and darker, as if each droplet were a spark fallen from a lantern deep within. Yet, the angrier and darker they became, the more sparks they lost. The world outside became a grey haze.
Rainy days always put her in a pensive mood. It was as if the world outside was reflecting her world within, inviting it to spill out and flow over the earth like a river breaching its banks. She always perceived an ironic safety in the sensory maelstrom created by wild weather.
A flash of lightning split the sky in two. It aroused murmurs of fear and excitement amongst those who witnessed it. A distant grumble of thunder followed a moment later, as if in response to the passengers’ quiet exclamations. She smiled at the sound. Deep within her, her soul answered with a low growl, a contented purr. The train once again submerged into the underground.