The Ironing Man: Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Strangers on a Train
Tom was sitting on the train when his mobile phone rang. Someone from work. Then it rang again. Another call from work. Then again, someone from the phone company asking how he liked his phone. Normally Tom loved his phone. He could be in touch with the world any time. Even if he was out of the office he could tell them what he was doing and where he was. Even if his boss could not see him, Tom could always talk to him.
Now, however, he was not so happy with his phone. He was trying to think about Marina and the phone was making that impossible.
He went to the toilet. Not because he needed to go, but he had found out on his last train journey that for some reason, the phone didn’t work there. He had discovered this because he had walked in, phone in hand to talk with someone (not his boss, thank God!!), and it had stopped working. He had looked out the window, the one that looks like it has ice all over it, but they were not in a tunnel. When he walked out, he got a call again.
So Tom went to the toilet to think. On his way, he suddenly remembered how his father used to spend hours in the toilet when Tom was a child. Maybe his father had been looking for somewhere to think.
He sat down and thought. Why would Marina say she was going to meet Joanne in London? Who was she going to meet? If something was going on between her and the Ironing Man, would she tell Tom? Well, maybe she was unsure and wanted to see what Tom’s reaction would be. Well, maybe she was just going a little mad in the village. What was she doing in London? That was the question!
The questions were still swirling in Tom’s head as he returned to his seat, but he was not happy when he returned and say a man sitting at the opposite side of the table. Tom could not see his face because he was reading a newspaper and holding it in front of him. Tom sat down and looked at the back page. Tom realized he did not like this newspaper. He did not think it was a newspaper at all. What news? The paper was full of big photographs, big headlines, big … well, big everything, if the readers were just learning to read.
So Tom very quickly got bored reading the back page, but he did not feel like working. He noticed another paper lying on the table, which the man had clearly brought. It was his village newspaper, which Tom did not normally read because it was so boring. It always had stories about people getting married and lost cats. Today the headline read: SAVE OUR DUCKS — BUILD BRIDGE
Tom decided to look through the paper to distract himself from Marina. He hoped to find something interesting, but all he found was an article about a bank manager who had lost all his hair and asked workers to shout at him to grow it back. He found something about Sports Day at the school. And he found something about a man who grew the biggest cucumber in England (second biggest in the world), but his wife still left him.
Tom looked at the man across the table, but he was still reading, so Tom when back to this paper. He started looking through advertisements. He saw ones for houses, cars, and different kinds of services, but suddenly one stood out to him.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR WIFE/HUSBAND REALLY IS WHEN THEY SAY THEY ARE VISITING A FRIEND? ARE YOU WORRIED THAT MAYBE THEY HAVE FOUND SOMEONE ELSE?
Tom could not believe it. The questions in the ad were the same ones he was asking. He looked again and there was a phone number for a private detective and a promise
BRING ME YOUR PROBLEMS AND WILL GIVE YOU ANSWERS… FAST!
AND NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER KNOW!
The idea of using a private detective had never entered Tom’s head. He had seen private detectives on television, usually in California. But in England? It did not seem possible, but … maybe this was his way of finding out what was going on.
Tom put down the paper down and picked up his phone and rand. Almost immediately he heard another phone ring, but for some strange reason, he could hear in ringing in both his ears. He moved the phone away from his head, but could still hear it ringing. He heard, in fact, from right across the table. The man opposite him put his newspaper down and looked at Tom.
‘I see you have found my advertisement,’ he said with a smile.
Tom finally starts to get a taste of his own medicine that he’s been feeding Marina. He feels trapped aboard a train that he cannot leave, with no one to talk to about his feelings. He begins to feel closed in by his loneliness and the uncertainty of his marriage that he used to think was going so well.
It does not take much, though, to set this weak willed man-child over the edge. Marina honestly tells him about her day and another man that entered her life, and he begins to panic. Although he encouraged her to enjoy herself while he was out, he wanted it to be on his terms. He wanted her to make friends with people in the village or play golf, like him. He moved them to the city to be AWAY from strange men like the Ironing Man and strange idealists like Joanne.
Tom resembles the kind of man who wants his wife to act pleasant, but never pleasured. If, for instance, he returned to the house to find Marina masturbating, he would be aghast. He left Marina at home so that she might prepare for his return, not that she might practice her own independence. So, it makes sense that Tom would be immediately threatened by this non-descript Ironing Man (whose existence Marina volunteered on her own). Somehow, Tom is so uncertain of his marriage that he wonders if Marina is trying to test him. This begs the question: Huuuuhhh?
Now, Tom meets a mystery man and does not think twice about it. Do you think that he would voluntarily tell Marina that HE was talking to a stranger? Yet he calls a private investigator for just that reason.
It is worth noting that Marina’s main crime: suspiciously going to London is not very suspect at all. Tom literally goes there every day. Perhaps Marina has rightfully grown afraid of Tom (who sat silently as she told him about her day) and does not want him to intercept her as she makes her escape. She was, after all, forced to move to a secluded area and separated from all her friends and family. She does not have a mobile phone, like Tom, as is expected to service his household as he sees fit. Even when she talks to butterflies he is suspicious.
Could the Ironing Man be a Social Services agent? If so, the key for Marina is to never look back