Stranger on a Train

The first thing I noticed were his eyes. Not because they were striking or particularly attractive, but he looked like a man with twenty-twenty vision. They narrowed like a hawk on me. I squelched around like one of those overly-ripe tomatoes under a blunt knife. The seeds inside me wobbled too.

“Are you any relation to that eagle on your shirt?”

He looked down and pulled his shirt away from his body.

“Sometimes I think I might be growing some feathers, but I realise they’re ingrown hairs. They’re sharp like razors though.”

I suddenly became very aware I had stopped breathing so that I could hear his words and syllables fully. I analysed every lip movement and every pore of his skin, scanning his face like passport control. I would make a fantastic security person at the airport; thorough and merciless.

I wanted to reach for a paper bag to breathe into. Apparently this is a good thing to do if you have spells of panic or agoraphobia. I saw it on a TV programme once. This teenage girl was having a terrible time in a panic and the bag sorted her out.

By now he had finished his story about his ingrown hairs and was staring at me as if I’d just yelled out on a crowded commuter train. Like a crazy person. Luckily I noticed that the woman next to me had a book half wrapped in a plastic bag. I wondered why a book might be better off in a plastic bag. Perhaps she was overly-precious. I leaned over and asked for the bag. Her face suggested she might have been concerned I would use it for malicious purposes. I wanted to allay her fears by making it clear it was because I had in fact halted my own respiratory system. So I breathed loudly and made panting noises while bending over double. My head was almost touching the ground by this point and all the blood was rushing down into my eye balls. Between my legs, upside down, I could see this man. He had another face now. All his features had morphed to form the face of a now stranger.

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