Arriving Somewhere Unexpected
‘Excuse me, please.’
The man with the burgundy backpack couldn’t hear me over his headphones, which leaked a tinny tsk tsk into the carriage. The automatic door closed, pinning my arm to my ribs before it whined back open.
‘Excuse me, please,’ I said, much louder.
The burgundy backpack stared back at me unmoved, like its owner. I cursed my luck that this train – the only train I could feasibly get, would be the train jam-packed with commuters, travellers, and this leaky headphone backpack wearing motherfucker who thought the best place to stand on a crowded train was in a doorway.
The yell came from a kid, pegging it down the aisle, upsetting umbrellas and briefcases and eliciting muttered swear words from two business men and a granny. The kid was carrying an iphone with a diamante union jack cover, clutched in a tiny fist. It was clearly the object of his excitement. He barrelled past me, knocking me into the luggage rack and slipped past the man with the backpack.
The tsk tsk sound stopped.
‘I got past the boss. Look!’
I closed my eyes and counted to ten as the man with backpack bent down to look at the screen, high fiving his son and tapping the touch screen. There is no hope for this kid. No hope at all.
‘Excuse me, please.’
This third repeat yielded success, insofar as the man heard me. He moved half a millimetre and turned one degree to the left, and that with a begrudging grunt. Extricating myself from the luggage rack and warding off the automatic door a second time, I squeezed through the gap, my crotch brushing against the backpack. Finally, I was able to make it to the toilet.
The door slid open with mechanical precision and spontaneously failed to slide closed afterwards. Close to screaming, giving up on the train and my destination, I hammered the button until, with a lurch, the door moved into its housing. The lock button flashed. I wondered whether it meant it was locked or not. I risked it and leant forward, pressing myself against the mirror, willing the cold surface to freeze my brain entirely. It didn’t.
I managed not to scream, but I swore loudly and then turned my attention to the purpose of my visit to this cramped torture box masquerading as a public facility. I had only just unbuttoned my jeans and dropped them to my ankles when the train rocked to an undignified stop. My station. Time to get off. The jeans were brought back up and refastened. I hammered the open button until it lit up and then hammered it again until the door opened.
The man with the backpack was gone. So was the rest of the train. Outside the door, there was nothing but white, hot sand, stretching away to a cool, blue sea. This was not Doncaster railway station. I kicked off my shoes and walked bare foot to the water.