He sat, hunched over his notebook on the blue upholstered seats of carriage four. The train was on time, much to most people’s surprise. It was a freezing cold morning and the sheep in the fields were stood, munching iced grass. He hadn’t felt like this in years. He was alone – for the first time since he was fifteen – and it felt like freedom.
He looked around the carriage: eight people (the train filled up at the next stop, so he always got a seat). The usual mix: one elderly lady with an awkward suitcase (heading to an airport, or to relatives down south, maybe); four men on their way to work (one arty type, two middle managerial suits, one non-specific: could be a caterer); two women on their commute (one sharp dressed, the other bookshopish); one school girl trying to look like she’s on her way to work, but failing dismally.
He’d written on trains before, but he’d always found them distracting. He’d end up chatting, or drifting off, or eyeing someone up. Mostly he’d be travelling with another who would have insisted on talking. Today was different. He had this journey to make, five days a week, like everyone else. Same time (give or take lateness), and he’d sit in the same place (give or take the odd time when someone took his seat). He had a regime, so he’d use it. However cramped up he got, however busy, he’d write every day. He was alone. He may as well fill the void with words. He may as well make it count.
He stared for a while out of the window, and wondered what they were doing now. One would be in France, waking up to an empty room and wondering where it had gone wrong. The other would – no doubt – be back, curled up next to her partner, in some flat in Leeds, dreaming of songs and nights in the Med. Well, good luck to them both. They owed him nothing, and he was free. For the first time in fifteen years he could be who he was on his own terms without compromise.
So, he hunched over his book, and he wrote that day’s entry in his journal.