It’s an odd way to travel, the train.
You sit around tables with people you don’t know, trying to keep to your own space as best as possible, akward eye contact and a hurried sorry whenever you accidentally make contact.
Some people get around this, strike up conversations, listen to music, but at the end of the day, it’s awkward. It’s not fun, however much they preach about giving you space, it’s just not comfortable. The Spend enough of your time on a train, and you might just start living your life that way, that’s what they’ve told me. My name’s not important, I work in sales, but that’s not important either, life is a slew of handshakes and small talk, hotel rooms and train journeys. It’s been said I can do what I do over the phone or email, I say nothing does the trick like a face to face meet to get a real feel for who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. Why don’t I drive from place to place? I don’t want to deprive myself of the only real human contact in my life. Working in sales is more akin to sparring then conversation, a subtle haggle over prices and sale lines, They see me as just a suit, peddling my wares. It’s not untrue.
I don’t remember the last time I unpacked my suitcase, but at least I never have to make my own bed. I’m on the train now, Charing Cross to Dover Priory, It’s late in the day, and the few passengers aboard are sleeping,listening to music or talking quietly In a huddle.
I welcome the silence, Ricky, now retired but has been “running his newsagents longer then you’ve been walking gods green earth” put the world to rights on the earlier train, Which I doubted, closing forty myself, but I tried to believe everything I was told on train journeys, why lie to a man you’ll never speak to again? In addition to his newspaper expertise we covered his favourite recipes for pasties, his wife’s former career as a teaching assistant and West ham’s current form in the premier league.
I must confess to being a West ham fan myself, although I couldn’t remember the last time I’d caught a game, or followed them in any way besides the sport pages of the paper so I welcomed the conversation. We need to scrounge up some strikers from somewhere, and if we don’t pull our weight soon, apparently we’ll be relegated. We parted as friends once we reached London though I doubted we’d ever meet again, and I went on with my journey. I suppose that’s what my life was really about now, part time friends.
I find it tricky to build lasting human relationships, the combination of my constant travelling and the Aspergers I seem to be continually referring to now has killed off any of the more resilient friendships in my life, which works out okay, because now I don’t feel so bad for spending every night in a different hotel room. It may sound like I’m somewhat fucked up, a train wreck of a man, but I’ve seen far worse, I just try to be honest about it, I know my flaws, and acknowledge them.
I met a man standing on the platform in Exeter, we talked for twenty minutes while waiting for the train, he told me about his daughter, how his wife was divorcing him and moving to Canada, but he was planning on fighting her for custody. I found it difficult to empathise with him after nothing more than a decade of meaningless one night stands.
I’d just managed to turn the conversation to his work when the train came to the platform, and he, mid-sentence, stepped out in front of it. It delayed the train for damn near two hours. It struck me, perhaps too late considering, that I’d never asked his name. I guess the legal fees scared the hell out of him.
You must be wondering, at this juncture, what my point is, And if you pressed me for it, I wouldn’t really have one. I enjoy travelling by train, but it’s been so long since my life has had any lasting emotional context, I felt I had to spell it out for someone. Some people spend their entire lives just internalising their feelings, public transport is no place to air them, how often do you see people crying on trains, how often do you see blazing arguments? Aside from exceptions, when someone blows their top on a late night train, it’s like living in an emotionless bubble.
This makes my earlier comment about using trains to try and soak up some kind of emotional connection that i’m not getting anywhere else in my life totally irrelevant, but it’s all about the small steps. In the smaller doses you get on trains, it’s okay, helps me feel more like I’m part of something, just another cog in the machine of society. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, most women won’t look twice, but life rattles on. I guess I just felt I should get this off my chest, before the next person in front of the train is me.