Café, closed, close to Christmas. Now a de facto waiting room, snug with late night shifts and Christmas shoppers seeking solace from the cold. Winter winds bottle-neck at the station start, and howl with speed down the platforms, passing through waiting passengers. Staring through windows across to the opposite platform, watching solitary figures struggle against the cold that tries to bite off their ungloved fingers.
The buildings across the way, windows lit up in semi-festive themes, paint pictures of people well rested. But here in the reflections the late few struggle against exhaustion, against sleep, against jobs like my own. None of us should be here, wound up so tight from the day, lodged between sleep and awake. This should be our time but we are still in debt to the offices we have left.
Those in Christmas cheer fill the spaces between the platforms with their warmed blood and seasonal bravado. They filter into the waiting room, with their noise, and their bustling bags. So many bags, so many presents, so little for themselves. Because that’s what Christmas is after all, a competition in who can give the most money, the most time, the most of themselves. Exhausting. But worth it, maybe, in the end. For some of us, for something that isn’t cold, or tired. I envy their early warmth.
I stand, leaning against the long bar, watching them in the reflections. Large windows project clear images of a bright scene, obscuring the small figures of the platform beyond. A family catch my eye; two women with small children. One girl and a baby somewhere on its way to childhood. The baby, a girl? gurgles to her mother. The sound pricks at the smiling dimples of her mother’s face. A connection passes between them which I cannot fathom through their blurred reflected glory. But which I wonder whether I would feel all the same, up close.
The mother pulls her baby across table. Was she in a baby seat? Or sat at the table? I can’t see, no inclination to turn around, but it looks unsafe. Unsafe as the girl seems to disappear into a white cloud with a crunch. The crunch coming from elsewhere in the waiting room, and the cloud a large white winter coat obscuring her from my view. Much funnier I think, that she was eaten, whole, by a big fluffy snow monster.
Some children, from somewhere, the same family? begin to dance around behind me. To my seeing eyes they seem to move on to the train tracks, revolving on the spot. They spin, waiting for the train to approach, daring it to stampede on their innocence. My stomach lurches at the sincerity of the image.
Serene they seem as they float, off on to the platform, and away. I turn to watch them waltz across the waiting room, into the space by the now closed coffee counter. I am fascinated by their ability to transport themselves in space, like fairies. They remind me of an image from a story I’ve long since forgotten.
I look back to the platform in time to see a woman outside, lean against the windows. She turns her head to the side, and in this reflected light seems to burrow her nose into the neck of the man stood to my left. They have a small, perfect, happy, moment. Which only I witness. And it makes me smile.
As the rare reflections disperse and the perfect moments pass I turn my gaze to look through the window proper. My eyes catch hard on the man looking through from the other side. Shocked, he jumps, and turns away. I wonder what he saw on his side of the glass, and if the stories he saw, were something like mine.