A Seat for Cindy
There were other women wearing heels on the 5 AM train, but none of them were like Cindy. You could tell the difference with your nose. While the others smelled like soap and coffee, her scent was a sour blend of alcohol and sweat. She smelled of a party. Of yesterday’s party, to be more precise.
Once you had figured out that clue, you could spot more differences between her and the other commuters. Her dress was tighter and a couple of inches shorter. Her makeup was heavier and had rearranged itself on her face thanks to gravity and heat. Her gait was wobbly as she limped into the train seconds before the doors closed. And, in a clear violation of the unspoken agreement of all 5 AM commuters, Cindy wouldn’t shut up.
“Wow, this train is so packed! Why are you all awake so early?! It’s 5 AM! Hellooooo?!”
They were only ten seconds into the two-hour ride back to London, and the entire carriage already hated her. It was a bit premature of them. They should have waited until her next sentence to pass their judgment:
“Wait, people are standing? Oh gosh, I can’t stand for that long, no way! Hey! Will anyone give me a seat, please? I’m so tired!”
You could still feel a little bit of hate in the carriage now, yes, but most of it had been replaced by either laughter, contempt or disbelief. Cindy was going for sympathy, though, so she tried again.
“Hey! Anyone? Please! I’m wearing heels! My feet hurt! Aren’t there any gentlemen here?”
In any other country, the heckling and harassment would have started long before. In the most British manner, though, the entire train seemed to have agreed to roast Cindy in their silent indifference, refusing to even glance in her direction.
“Fuck! This is so humiliating! Where are your manners?”
She stumbled her way to a row of priority seats, narrowly avoiding three falls.
“Hey, sir. Excuse me. Can I have your seat? My feet hurt and I’m so exhausted.”
The passengers smiled at each other and exchanged looks of contempt, carefully avoiding Cindy’s eyes. She tried a few more times before realising their reaction wouldn’t change. If Cindy wanted a seat, she would need a better plan.
She spotted him two rows behind her. A tall, blue-eyed man in his early twenties, wearing a suit without a tie. Cindy would usually be out of his league, but that was his lucky morning.
“Hi there… I’m Cindy… what’s your name?”
If Cindy still looked like she did the night before, she could have talked him into giving away his seat — or anything else she wanted. The charms of 5 AM Cindy, however, were considerably diminished. It didn’t help that her target had witnessed her previous outbursts, just like everyone else in the train. In her state, Cindy could only get a polite reply from him. It just wasn’t what she had in mind.
“You really should go to the toilet. You look like you’re about to puke."
Cindy had paid no attention to her stomach until then, but after hearing his words she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Her mouth was filled with saliva, in anticipation for the bitter taste of bile. Without saying a word back to the young man, she turned around and stumbled to the toilet.
As she hugged the loo and her knees touched the cold floor, she remembered the advice her mother would always give her. She could party as much as she wanted, as long as she didn’t miss the last train at midnight. Now she knew why. The commuter train at 5 AM was awful. The people there were the worst. And it was because of them that Cindy felt sick.
But the toilet was just what she needed. After a couple of minutes in there, her head didn’t hurt anymore. She no longer felt sick, yet she remained on her knees facing the loo. It didn’t smell that bad. The trains were much cleaner at 5 AM than at midnight. All things considered, it was good to finally get some rest. Her feet were killing her. There was no way she could go back to standing after that. She cleaned a bit of drool from the toilet seat with a piece of toilet paper and got up to finally sit for the first time on that trip.
It didn’t matter how many people knocked on the door and complained: she would be there for the rest of the journey. Cindy had finally found her seat.
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