“Do you need to check your bags sir?” said the man behind the glass.
I didn’t answer immediately. He looked up and into my eyes. Words hadn’t worked so maybe he hoped I was hearing him telepathically.
“No bags,” I said. Some people have accused me of being a wordsmith, but no one who was within hearing distance on this day was likely to agree.
I handed over the exact amount, he counted it carefully as though he expected me to short change him. Once he was satisfied, he placed the money in its designated slot in the money draw. Even the coins came in for ‘one by one’ attention. He closed the old wooden drawer gently and looked at me before reluctantly sliding my ticket across the brass plate which extended to each side of the thick glass. It occurred to me that no one polished the brass plate — constant use did that.
“Have a pleasant trip sir. Your train leaves in seventeen minutes and fifteen seconds, track twelve.” He noticed my look. “Just head to your right, you’ll see the sign,” he said.
I picked up the paper ticket and read it. My destination was printed on it as was the final destination of the train. The words, ‘non-sleeping’ seemed to sum up my present predicament — not a lot of sleep and I guess it was showing.
“Thanks,” I said and as an afterthought, “Do you ever get lonely in there?”
The man behind the glass looked me in the eye again and said, “All the time. I watch people like you buying tickets and heading off to parts known, and I wonder.”
“What do you wonder?” I said.
“I wonder what you all are doing. Why are you leaving? What do you do when you get there?”
“Why not ask?” I said.
“Folks are usually in too much of a hurry. I don’t want to bother them, so I wonder.”
“I’m leaving because there is no reason for me to stay. I’m determined to enjoy the train ride, and I have no idea what I’ll do when I get there, but I’ve got money and a comb and an address of a bloke my father served with in the war, so there is a chance of somewhere to stay when I get there. I’ll find a job, I’m good at lots of stuff, and maybe there’ll be a girl who likes me. Maybe I’ll settle there, but most probably not. My mum said I’ve got itchy feet and I’m beginning to think she might be right,” I said.
The man behind the glass was in the process of smiling when a large lady with a small child suggested that I was going to make her late for her train, so I stepped away from the window and headed for platform twelve. The man in the ticket booth stayed where he was, but at least he knew where I had come from and where I was going, and he had a small glimpse of my hopes for the future.
Unencumbered by baggage or regrets, I sauntered towards my impending journey, and track twelve.