The railway waiting room is cold and half closed. The metal barrier to the cafe area has been slammed down and most of the hard purple and silver metal chairs are empty. There will not be many more trains now. A large black and tan crossbreed lies out on the floor. He has pricked ears, kind eyes and a well rounded belly. His family are around him, a little girl dressed in pink, as they all are, a dad who is keeping her amused and a mum nursing a carton of coffee and watching them all proudly. The dad finds the sweet spot on the dog’s belly which will make his leg kick out when you scratch it and the little girl laughs.
A lady sits in the corner, talking to herself. She has large boots on and severely scraped back hair. She has taken off her coat and she can’t be warm enough. Her foot bangs repeatedly on the floor.
Two girls giggle, heads close together. They look like sisters. One is beautiful, the kind of beautiful that makes you want to keep looking at her. She is stick thin with long carefully waved black hair and heavy eye make up which is skilfully done. She wears a leather look fabric jacket, skin tight leggings and grey sneakers. She is not dressed up, she doesn’t need to be. The other is not beautiful. She is a little heavier, with a rounded face and slightly awkward make up. She doesn’t have the natural elegance of her sister who has arranged herself gracefully on her chair. It’s as if the pieces of the genetic jigsaw don’t quite fit.
There is a sudden burst of sound as an announcement comes over the intercom. The dog leaps up and makes loud howling noises. Everybody laughs. He is alert now, sitting up and looking out fearfully with his nose down. He hadn’t realised something bad might happen. The lady talking to herself is muttering. “Dog frightened. Dog frightened.”
Grandparents and teenage granddaughter sit with a small pile of luggage, all decked out in Macmillan daffodils and smart anoraks. Gran is concerned about the tickets which she is clutching in her hand. She announces where their seats are going to be when the train comes in. Nobody listens. Granddad stands and stares into space and granddaughter is engrossed in her phone. She is bored and the journey hasn’t even started yet. There is a lot of food for the journey in a hessian shopping bag and three large sports drinks. Nothing has been left to chance.
A lady in a huge fur jacket and a black silk blouse with balloon sleeves, whose hair has been forced into places it was never meant to go, sits like a blinged buddha giving instructions from a distance to the person she has sent to find something out. She is an immovable object, watching everything which happens with serene contempt.
The mother notices me smiling at the dog and smiles back at me. She likes her family to be admired. The dog is starting to feel better. He is sitting between the man’s feet and the little girl is stroking him. He bats the very end of his tail on the floor and looks at the young man sitting opposite hoping that he will be noticed. Finally he feels safe and sinks back down to the floor.
The blinged buddha gets her news and processes slowly across the floor towards the sliding door. She was beautiful once and the awareness of that beauty has never left her.
Another train announcement crashes into the stale air of the waiting room and the dog leaps up, howling at the threat. Arms are flung around him and he barks on, protecting his protectors.
“The train now standing at platform 4 is being prepared for service. Please do not board this train.”
The lady who is talking to herself is puzzled by this. She chunters to herself, asking questions. Why can you not board that train? Trains are for getting on. What use are they if they won’t let you get on them? There is nobody to answer her. Steadily the people leave and make their way towards the train. Most of them know that the announcement is one that they can safely ignore. It is time to leave. She sits in her corner and watches them go. There are no goodbyes.