I stood on the platform, huddled against a square light post, the only shelter against the cold, biting November wind as I waited for the last train of the night. The train was late.
Delayed at work, I had raced to the train stop to catch my usual train home. I arrived just in time to see it pulling away. I went back to the old pickup I kept at the commuter lot to take back and forth to work and the station. I sat in it until the clock on the dash showed me it was 10 minutes before the last train’s arrival. Sometimes the train arrived early and I did not want caught on the wrong side of the track’s unable to get to the side of the platform where the conductor’s opened the doors.
So I waited for the delayed train. I would have checked online to see if the reason for the delay was posted on the website or to see if they had an estimated time of arrival. But my phone’s battery had died, leaving me without my usual podcasts to listen to or the information I wanted.
Sue sat on the bench a short distance a way.
I knew Sue. On my first day riding the commuter train, Sue had barked at me. She didn’t like me sitting across from her. All of the other seats were taken, but Sue wanted to stretch her legs out on the seats across from her. Her bags took up the seat next to her instead of being placed in the overhead storage.
“Where do you expect me to sit?” I asked.
“Not here,” she said.
I ignored her and her angry glares until the train thinned after the next stop and I moved away from her.
I learned quickly she acted that way with other passengers as well. One evening home I sat a few rows away, but could not avoid hearing her as she complained about the county’s retirement system. She wanted to cash out and retire early from her job, but they weren’t offering a buyout to her. I tried to tune her out to listen to my book, but her voice was too loud, too angry. The woman across the corridor from her nodded sympathetically. “My sister had that …” but Sue cut her off.
“I didn’t ask about your sister,” Sue said. “I don’t care about your sister.”
The woman’s eyes widened. She had listened to Sue at length and Sue’s response had taken her aback.
“Sue likes monologues, not dialogues,” I told the woman.
Sue glared at me. “No one asked you,” she said.
After that, I moved to the Quiet Car. The occasional social interactions with fellow passengers were not worth having to hear Sue’s voice carrying over even the sound of the locomotive.
One morning, though, Sue’s usual ride had failed to show up. From the train stop parking lot to Sue’s office was a short walk, but Sue didn’t like to make it.
She asked me to give her a ride and in a moment of softheartedness, I agreed. Each morning she climbed in and I got to hear her harangue against the world. The topic varied. Her complaints didn’t. Though the ride was but moments, it darkened my mornings. Yet still, she had asked and it was on my way.
On this cold night, I spoke up to her. “Sue, do you know what time it is?”
“No,” she answered quickly. “I don’t have a watch.”
The train arrived and I waited for her to board and then followed. Fortunately on the late train, there were plenty of open seats. I sat down. Sue put down her bags across from her, put her feet up, and as she did, her coat sleeve pulled up. There, clearly apparent on her wrist, was her watch.
(To be continued)