Having hugged Tally and Hannah and the boys goodbye for the next six months, promising to text, as always, I cycled to the train station with a monster-sized handbag balanced all-too-precariously on my handlebars.
My ticket safe in my pocket, the train was already docked patiently in the station, so I took my leave of the well-gummed platform immediately, and found for myself four seats, two on either side of a sand-coloured plastic table. I sat beside the window, my bag sitting upright on the seat beside me—proud yet inanimate—and settled to watch as the later passengers filtered into the carriage and searched for seats.
I felt an inkling of guilt, having taken for myself the best seats in the entire carriage, the other set of four occupied by a guffawing group of old bangers, but I was not feeling in a generous mood. Tony says I’m ‘a born businesswoman’. I don’t do favours when they involve sacrificing my own comfort for the short-lived or even non-existent gratitude of others. Am I proud of that? I can’t say.
My ipod is my only friend when I travel, and so when the train rolled away from the platform, popular music weaved a pleasant and mild undercurrent beneath the grey hum of my thoughts. What thoughts? I don’t rightly know; pleasant and mild ones.
The train gained in pace, and soon the city merged to dull ribbons of colour before my unseeing eyes. The sense of sight was useless as my brain was filled with light music, and my mind focussed on preventing the world from reaching my sense perceptors, just for a blissful two hours I would be uncommanded by stipulation.
Fifty-five minutes later the alarm on my ipod alerted me to awareness, and I turned down the volume so that it could not distract my concentration on reigning in and retaining full consciousness. The drone of the train hummed into perception, as did an unchecked argument between two hot-tempered sisters a few rows behind me.
I did not like to turn to get a better look at them as the tempest raged betwixt two fury-inflamed heads, but I could feel the juddering waves of the irate flashes of lightening, which accompanied the thunder of their angry words. I wonder their parents did not appeal to these troubled spirits to dispel the ugly storm.
I waited, my music a scarce layer to my thoughts. And in my thoughts I was wondering how it would be to have a sibling myself—one whom I could disagree and argue with, but also one whom I could love and respect as a dear friend.
Sad jealousy for those two sisters behind me, and coveting the circumstance of their quarrel as Hannah covets ownership of a new iPhone, I forced my attention to meet the window glass as closely as was viable.
I was rewarded for my attentive vigil just minutes later. Upon the very hour, I heard the rattle of tracks, and I felt my heartbeat quicken. The moment—the train—the carriage—the window—the girl—was fast approaching.
The train hurtled past. Carriage after carriage, each with long windows deepened to a coffee brown, strangely excluding. I saw face upon face, life upon life—but I saw neither the face nor the life for which I sought with such yearning in the depths of my soul.
A white oblong approached, deepened to an unsightly taupe hue by the tinted window. Two words scrawled in capital letters across the austere-looking quadrilateral flashed across my brain, imprinted distinctly on the panel of my eyeball for hours to come: WINDOW SILL.
Above the oblong to which my attention had been drawn unerringly was a face: soft dark hair, soft blue-tinted eyes; unsmiling. Our eyes locked, and the moment lengthened, but there was not time to smile. She was Bridie Domaille, my own sister, to whom I am not related—and then she was gone, and I was presented with the bleak scene of thirsty countryside between two industrial cities.
I was an animal behind a darkened screen, trapped in my own enforced fate—and she was one too. But we wept without tears behind separate screens, one on either side. We would go round and round the track of eternity, while those observers watched and poked and cooed from the sidelines, but we would never meet. We were always apart. We were two passengers on parallel trains, on parallel tracks. And everyone knows that parallel lines never meet.
I turned up the volume on my ipod.