You don’t expect anything to happen on the tube. Actually, you actively try to make sure nothing happens on the tube; everyone make sure to avoid eye contact, burying themselves in their reading material or music. Some people find this frustrating. They think it’s a moment for true human connection, or at least acknowledgement, and it’s all a big waste that we are smashed in there ignoring each other, but I don’t mind it anymore. We’re all in a tiny space, we’re all tired, and we’re all just trying to get somewhere else. The most pleasant way to endure it is for everyone to just keep to themselves quietly. But every now and then something happens that pulls everyone from their private lives pressed into one carriage and makes them into a real group of people with big, beating hearts. Like last Tuesday.
The train pulled into one of its many stops between my Spanish class in central London and my house out west. My music played gently in my ears and my headphones kept me blissfully ignorant of the noise of my surroundings. I hadn’t looked up in probably twenty minutes. I was totally absorbed in flipping through the TimeOut I’d been handed during my morning commute, looking to see if any good shows were on that weekend, when I heard someone yelling. Not unusual for a ruffian to cause a stir every now and then. But there it was again. And it continued.
My attention perked, I slid one earphone back a centimeter to distinguish the words. It was a man.
“Don’t do this to me!” You could hear the desperation in his voice and in his volume. “I love you!” The “door closing” sound rang into the air. I looked up from my magazine to see a man outside the train reach out towards a passenger as the doors slid shut. “But I love you!” Everyone in the train at this point was looking in his direction, straining to see who was he calling to.
Why wasn’t that other person saying anything? Who were they? Did they love him too? Were they crying? A man was yelling to them in the tube! This is a big romantic moment! Say “yes,” damnit! Jump out of the train and into his arms!
Or has he just used your last £100 to buy drugs again and you have packed up your most necessary things into a big purse and fled, only to have him see you when you were half a block from the house? Let those doors shut, girl. Scream, “I don’t date abusers!”
But why this cruel silence??
The train starts to pull away and everyone is leaning towards the door. What will become of this pair?? As we slide past the man, now left alone on the platform, I see his out stretched arm fall to his side defeated. Oh the heartbreak! But when I look up to his face, he isn’t crying. He isn’t distraught at all. He’s laughing. And his outstretched arm is now waving, and a friendly smile is revealing lots of pretty, white teeth.
Ha. Ok, fair enough. I’ve been fooled. One friend saying goodbye to another and making a big hullabaloo for a laugh. You got me. Hell, you got all of us in that Circle Line carriage. But you know, for that ten seconds, all our heads weren’t down in our magazines and books, our ears weren’t filled with music and audio books, our hearts were beating together with a rallying cry for love.
These are city moments I love – being part of a herd of humans.