Alice and Heather
I noticed her and her two girls when they came in. She was one of those mums, over active and energetic, like a busy body. I noticed her because she had stood behind me as we waited for the train. I heard her talking to her kids, explaining mundane details loud enough for everybody to hear, I turned around, expecting the kids to be about 3 or 4, because that was the kind of voice she used…you know, the kind that is ever patient and nurturing….so I thought they were little ones…asking their thousand and one questions as usual. I turned around and they were twins…about 10 or 11 years old. I gave the mum a look of disapproval and hoped and prayed that they were not going to be in the same carriage as me. But we all know how these things work, not only were they in my carriage, but the twins had the two seats behind me and their mum had the seat beside me. I was not happy at all. Her seat number was next to the window but she asked me, no, she did not ask. She said “I’ll rather sit by the aisle if that’s okay, you know children; there will be a lot of going back and forth”. I did not say a word; I gave her a frown and sat by the window. Thus, the journey began. Before it even started, the mum made a big show of taking off their jackets and gloves, explaining the details as she did them, packing and unpacking several times. The girls of course, Alice and Heather, asking questions like “should I put the gloves in the pocket?” “Where did you put my jacket?” “did you put it up there?”. Etc etc. Anyway, then it was time for her to settle the ten year olds in their seats. For food, they had sandwiches, chips, candies, grapes, biscuits, sweets, and all sorts of chewing gums. For drinks, orange juice, apple juice and sprite or some kind of soft drink. For reading, comic books, magazines and story books. For music, Discman?(they both had ) and a catalogue of cds. For entertainment, all sorts of board games. All this, for a 4 hour journey…. And the train had a restaurant and shop…..I once travelled 36 hours on a bus with two sandwiches, an apple and a bottle of water….well, let me continue.
She settles them with all their stuff, and the journey begins. Three minutes later, something wheezes over my head and lands on the mother’s lap. A packet of candy. "Open!" she screams. That is what the child screamed "open!".I look back the child and frown at her. The mother meekly opens the packet and hands it over to her daughter, Alice. Two minutes later, another item wheezes past my ear, again, landing on their mother’s lap. “I don’t want that cd! Change it!” Again, the mother changes the cd and hands it back to the girl. Five minutes later, “I am thirsty!”. The mother says she should drink her soft drink or apple juice.”No! I want water!” The mother checks their supplies, there is no water. “Go and buy water! Go!” The mother goes to the restaurant, buys water and then makes a big show of serving the girls “here you go, one glass each, be careful now, I’ll just keep the bottle here, do you want more? No? Okay, the water is right here if you want”. Ten minutes later “I want to play a game!” two minutes after “I have to pee!” “I feel sick!” “I want candy!” on and on it went, this big girl went on terrorizing the woman, and the woman just did it all, in a very calm way...by this time, the guy on the other aisle is already sighing. I ignore them and stare out of the window, turning once in a while to eye the kids. After about an hour or so of the journey, I had to switch trains, as I collected my stuff, the mother was carrying one of them in her lap, and reading to them. Aloud, so the whole train could hear. I would have forgiven them all, if she had read anything else, but that....Winnie the fucking pooh!
There were no seats, the train was overbooked, but I had a seat. I was looking forward to reading and maybe a little writing when I noticed them. I only noticed them because they were the only blacks in the carriage, two young girls, and their grandmother, standing. The next stop was going to be in an hour and half. The old woman looked like she would fall any minute now. The conductor passed them and apologized about the situation. They were 19 other people in the carriage; I waited for about 3 minutes before I did what I knew I had to do. I gave up my seat for the old woman. At the time I did that, another girl had joined the group standing, a white girl, about 19 or so. She was there when I told the old woman to take my seat. At the next stop, an hour and half later, the old woman and her granddaughters went off the train, the old woman thanking me in Amharic and touching my arm as she left. I went back to my seat, the one I had given up for the old woman. Everybody in the carriage had seen me do that, so imagine my surprise when in the space of the two minutes it took for me to get there, the white girl had settled down with her stuff strewn all around her. I stopped in my tracks. For some reason, her action seemed so...inhumane...it reminded me of another human being I had come across last year...a person that was capable of turning goodness into something despicable...and that was what got me. It got me thinking about how easy it had been for this girl, in that one act, to spoil a good thing. I took a deep breath and smiled, no, nobody was going to make me feel bad for doing a good thing. No more. I smiled at her, and walked to another carriage where I had the pleasure of sitting with an old gentleman that treated me like a lady.
The train was full, there was nowhere to sit, so I hung out between two carriages, I put my back pack on the floor, sat on it and settled into my book....and then, I heard his voice, "excuse me, do you mind if I join you? There are no seats". I looked up...and felt alarming constrictions in my chest..."ehhhh, sure, you can sit beside me if you want, I'll make space for you". I moved my bag and legs out of the way, "Thanks, that's really nice", he sat beside me...damn, if this was not a specimen of a man...he was beautiful. He could not have been more than 20, his height made him impossible to miss, his brown/bronze hair was rough and tussled, like he just woke up, his eyes were piercing...he had ear phones on...he looked like a bloody rock star. He gave me a smile, and closed his eyes, enjoying his music no doubt. I caught myself staring again...and then I remembered...I am not a teenager, I cannot gush over young boys, barely out of their teens. I hissed at the thought, and went back to reading. We made a grab for the two nearest seats, at the next stop. Unfortunately, we got only one. He gave me a rock star smile and said "you have it, its okay, I'll just take your former seat if you don't mind". I smiled..."go ahead"....damn. I am not twenty any more.