Fiction / November 2012 (Issue 19)

At King's Circle, The Woman Gets Down

by Saranyan BV

The first day, I don't notice her, nor the second, nor the third, nor for quite some time. Then I notice her. She sits rank opposite me by the dirty window, snoozes while keeping her head on her lap. Our journey is an hour long, and it’s a nice feeling when a familiar face travels along.

She's fair like fish fillet, her brown tresses fall over her head onto her knees, as she sleeps in an upright foetal position. Her apparel jeans and cotton suggest she's a student. Her fine set of teeth make my eyes follow her. She struggles not to see me, her eyes darting to all objects in the train—the canopy, the graffiti, the bill which assures better sexual performance. She chills me in the spine, when her eyes turn grey with loathing, but she sits opposite me. I learn her name is Sula Maitre from the label on her bag, and it feels good to know.

One Wednesday, a matronly looking woman gets in our compartment at Bandra, and she sits adjacent to the girl. They readjust their sitting position in a manner meant to give more space to the other, but they occupy more space eventually. The woman too has fine set of teeth, and I begin to notice her. The girl notices that I notice and frowns.

The woman sweats profusely, drops of sweat above her upper lips are a string of pearls. She reaches over the girl and talks love to the young man who's come to see her off. They hold hands as the train moves, and the woman frets and whimpers as the young man fades into the thick of humanity. For some time, the woman closes her forlorn eyes, she's about to cry. The girl and I watch this and acknowledge we are watching.

In a fit of fury, the woman wakes and dials and speaks into her mobile. She tells the listener that she wants to elope, that she can't wait anymore and to hell with her husband and that she will jump off the train. The girl and I are disturbed by this; she gives a scornful look, but I am expressionless.

This goes on and the girl shuts her eyes, overhears the conversation in which neither of us has a stake. I look at the electric panel, the image of skull and bones warns "Danger 550 Volts." We judge the woman's action from our viewpoints.

The woman disconnects, the bead of sweat has evaporated. I look around at how many passengers have heard her and fear I am being protective of the woman. During the silence which follows, the girl returns to the game of averting eyes.

At King's Circle, the woman gets down and walks her way, the girl tracing her movement till she reaches the flight of stairs, which are over-crowded.

The girl and I travel the next day and the next and for some time after that. She occupies the same seat opposite me; we feel the warmth of camaraderie, but we don't speak. By the end of May, Sula stops coming by this local. Her curriculum over, my girl is unlikely to take this train again.

I feel terribly lonely.

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