Flickering Light

The search for an escape.


It’s a Tuesday morning, but does it really matter? It’s the same every morning. The same faces on the platform. He was better than this. He had been somebody. That was decades ago now, he still dressed well though, still took pride but it was different.

A wife, a family, stability. Now he’s just an affectionless ATM. A twice yearly father. He still has his routine, every morning the same train, the same carriage, the same cigarette. The time ticked down. Three minutes to go, the train appears on the horizon.

People shuffle, take the last few breaths of fresh air and appreciate the personal space. Not him. He reaches for the zip, it’s grown stiff with age but he knows the way. Retrieves a packet of Marlboro. He used to smoke stronger but those anti-smoking adverts have had some effect. He smiles, the anticipation has a taste, the cravings have a climax.

He locates the throw away lighter in his pocket. The cigarette feels cold between his lips. Soon though it will feel like a freshly photocopied piece of paper; Warm, comforting, familiar. He remembers the days when smoking was glamourous. Before he was forced outside like the bold dog.

He raises the lighter, in seconds he will have escaped. The flame flickers. He presses down again, the metal wheel coarse against his thumb. A fleeting flame again. The tobacco remains dry. The train inches closer. His platform acquaintances inch towards the edge. One last try, the flame appears full and orange but then it’s gone. Frustration creeps across his face, the memories of distant arguments surface. It could have all been so different. He stubs the half light escape out on the platform wall, redeposits it carefully in its box, joins the others at the edge.

For the next forty minutes there can be no escape. The view will hold no comfort. His mind will wander but never find contentment.