Twenty-seven minutes past eight in the morning. The tube doors cry out in pain as they roll shut, and we are sealed into the train. I find myself facing the the door, my neck and head bent back, tracing the shape of the curved window an inch from my face. Its an unbearable torture, so I pivot myself around. Other bodies bob against me, someone takes a step, and we find ourselves in a new, pressurised equilibrium.
I stop turning, too late to realise I’ve twisted plumb into someone else’s personal space. We are belly to belly. The first thing I see is a brown, manicured hand cluching the strap of a handbag, which is enough to tell me that it’s a woman, and she’s young. Instinctively, before I really think about it, I raise my eyes to check her out.
She is facing away from me, her head just moments from my chest, and I’m looking for just long enough to behold the divine curve where her neck sweeps up to join her chin, before she turns back to face me. Our eyes meet, and I do that quick, guilty glance away that you do when a stranger catches you staring on the train. I focus intently at the plastic roof of the carriage, and inside, I cringe.
But then I realise that she’s still looking, directly at me. Nervously, I steal another glance, and she stares right back. Dark Asian eyes. A mop of hair, still damp from a shower somewhere, skimming her shoulders and framing that neck.
I think I can see a faint expression on her mouth. I wouldn’t call it a smile as such, more a look of contentment. Her face is the absence of anxiety, and it fills me with great joy. I half smile back at her, and suddenly there’s a slight flick of her tongue as she moistens her lips.
We inhale each other, all the way to Old Street. It is a moment of sincerity, a moment of unfettered trust between two people. An abrupt and unexpected moment of true love.
As the train lumbers in to Angel, she breaks our shared gaze, and turns towards the door. As it opens, I know she will steal a glance back at me, an unspoken farewell. I have never been more certain of anything in my life.
But it does not happen. Her gaze is fixed ahead. As she coldly brushes past me and steps onto the platform, I can just make out a bright white wire losely woven into her hair, travelling from her ear, down into the folds of her coat. It is then that I reach an understanding: For her, I have never existed. Since London Bridge, she has been staring into a void of her own thoughts. It was nothing more than unlucky chance that my eyes, and my soul, should have stumbled into that blind plane of view.
Thirty-seven minutes past eight in the morning. The tube doors cry out in pain as they roll shut, and I am sealed into the train. Only then do I remember that Angel was my stop, too.