Feature: #traincouple – Two Strangers, One Psychology Buff, And A Mystery
How do I begin to tale a tale that if told in full would lead you to think me mad for telling it?
What began as a simple observation became a chink of light in my day, a little excitement, and knowing that is perhaps far more depressing than it is insane. I could never have predicted that in my mid-thirties, awaiting the sight of a couple of strangers and developing theories on them would have become the high point of my day. That confession could be read as a line from a swingers ad; the truth, I fear, is much more embarrassing.
As with all adventures, mine begins with an initial meeting, is fast developed into a complex web, and becomes suspended in a limbo of speculation. Each sighting adds a little to the tale, but much of its web has forced me to look not only outwards, but within.
Let me begin the tale of #traincouple by indulging you with a little about myself, for this is as much my story as theirs. I am hopelessly involved; in NAMA-speak I am ‘heavily invested’.
I am not and never have been a stalker (with the exception of Norman Loftis who, when I was fourteen, looked like Slash. I trailed him around town, as you did before you could simply follow a guy on Facebook). But as with anyone that does a psychology degree, I tend to live in my head… and other people’s heads. I try to avoid judging and instead observe and make decisions on the best available evidence. In other words, I have
a degree in people-watching which my recent return to public transport gave me ample opportunities to practice.
People often worry what other people think. I tell them that people are usually too wrapped up in their own shit to bother thinking about them – but not me. I am both wrapped up in my own shit AND thinking about you; we are always, to a certain extent, comparing ourselves and allowing these comparisons to inform us. At different times in our lives we use others to compare. I remember when I used to ask ‘Is my arse that big?’ to arses that were not that big; I now try to focus on easier goals, such as ‘Will my arse look big in a Micra?’.
I write a bit. One week, a fortysomething couple on the train inspired to write about the psychology of love. That couple soon became known to me as #traincouple.
I get the redeye service from my town to college, an hour and half each morning. It’s almost empty till we stop at the second last stop, 20 minutes from the terminus, and it’s there the carriage fills.
I can’t say I paid a lot of attention to their getting on, how they arrived, what they wore, even their faces… instead, it was their hands.
She sat with her arms folded, and as he sat next to her his arms moved into the same configuration, but with his left hand slid into hers. They sat, not talking, but holding hands. The week before, there were two teens pawing at and giving each other gooey-eyed stares opposite me, and I felt no joy at their love, but this was different. She was in her mid-forties. Him too. He always smiled when he looked at her. Nobody wants to be reminded of how awful they were as a teen, but to see the possibility of a future, of acting lovingly with small gestures on a morning commute, I will admit my heart was thawed. When she looked in her bag or he required the use of both hands at a coat button, their hands detached but once the task was complete, the hands sipped silently back together. I was smitten. What a ray of sunshine in a drab day! Being unable to strike up conversation to save my life, I feasted on this discrete act of love and unknowingly became a fan of #traincouple.
Life continued. I would sometimes find myself using the same train service as #traincouple. I saw them boarding on occasion… and noticed that they boarded separately. My interest was piqued. Then another layer was added to this mystery. She always got up and waited at the door to disembark before the final stop. There seemed no reason for this. It was the last stop, there was no rush to leave and there was only one direction to take.
Why did they enter and exit the train separately?
The story of #traincouple continues next week…