Clusters of people gather under shop doorways and bus shelters, nervously glancing at their watches, waiting for the rain to subside. Cursing myself for not bringing my umbrella to work, I trot through the rain underneath the shelter of my bag.
I cross the road as a taxi passes me and splashes water up my legs, before finally reaching the Picadilly Circus subway stairs. At the bottom I fight my way into the ebbing sea of commuters, some coming, some going, some just standing in the way. A tourist is having trouble with his ticket at the barriers as I patiently line up behind him. I see a kid nearby vault over one barrier and sprint down the nearest escalator, but the security guards are too frazzled to notice. Eventually the guy in front of me gives up and vanishes.
Once through, I head purposfully down the right tunnel, my wet trousers slapping uncomfortably against my ankles. People press on either side of me, everyone desperate to get home after a long day at work. An old woman with her nose buried in a Tube map stands dead still in the corridor, and I walk right into her.
'Sorry,' I mumble, walking round her. She hasn't even noticed I hit her.
After what seems like an eternity of dark passages, 3-storey escalators, and homeless people playing all kinds of music in the hope of being given a penny or two, I find my place on the train platform.
You can tell it's the end of the day. Everywhere I look I see weary faces, endless crowds of people in smart black work clothes, with the occasional student adding a splosh of colour to the scene. I push past a family conversing in Japanese and stand on the yellow line at the front of the platform, taking care not to go too close to the edge.
A minute passes. Then another. Finally, I hear that familiar whirring sound, feel the sudden rush of air blow my long hair across my face, and a train pulls in. The doors stop just to the left of me, and I push towards them. As they open, one or two people spill out while ten or so try to cram in. It's the same old rush hour scenario, but luckily I succeed in finding a spot on the train.
It's hot and stuffy, despite the rain and cold outside. There's a strong smell of body odour somewhere near me, and I pinpoint it to a sweaty middle-aged man sitting right below me, wiping his brow with his sleeve. The woman standing beside me has her earphones in, but I can still hear a faint tinny sound of her music in the almost complete silence of the carriage. The doors slide shut and the train pulls away. No one speaks or exchanges eye contact. People travelling alone read the adverts on the ceiling, have a book to distract them, stare off into space, or are asleep. Those with family or friends whisper to each other occasionally, or quietly show each other amusing anecdotes from the London Paper that is spread out on their lap. But otherwise there is no noise in the packed carriage besides the rattling of the train.
The heat increases by the second. It's almost unbearable. The lights flicker for a moment, and then come back on. The woman next to me turns up her music and I can hear a constant stream of heavy guitar coming through the earphones. Someone gives her a silent stare, but looks away after a second or two without a word.
The train turns a corner, and I nearly topple over on my heels. I hold onto the pole tighter, at the same time noticing my chipped nails and making a mental note to sort them out.
Then the lights flicker off again. The entire carriage is plunged into darkness.
I feel a rough hand stroke my face. In surprise I have no time (or space) to move backwards before I feel soft lips pressed against mine. It only lasts a second or two before whoever it is has gone and the lights come back on.
The scene appears unchanged. With my heart doing somersaults, I frantically search my surroundings to see who it might have been.
Then, as we pull into the next station moments later, an attractive, young guy about my age turns around, winks at me, and steps off the train, before getting instantly lost in the crowd.