Versus The City - Phil

Everybody thinks I’m asleep. I’m not! I hear the noise of the TV coming up the stairs, with the warm glow of the hall light and the smell of Dad’s chips. Up here it’s cold, and quiet, and dark, although not as dark as the bottom of our garden, which is the darkest place in London, where the shadow from the fence cuts out the light from the train line above. There aren’t any chips up here, either, which is a shame. Cold, dark and silent are fine by me, but I’d quite like some chips.

Living in London - any big city I suppose - cold, dark and silent are like treasure. Everywhere is noisy and bright and hot. I like to sit here, at the end of my bed, when everyone thinks I’m already asleep, and look out into the night. It’s calming. I don’t know how I’m supposed to sleep otherwise.

A train flashes past. My money box rattles, I feel the rumble in my belly, like I’m hungry. I only notice that when I’m sat here. I guess you get used to it, living by the train line, like you need to see the train to notice that literally the whole house is shaking. It’s funny what you don’t notice if you’re not looking.

A fox runs up the embankment and stops on the track. It sniffs the air, looking one way and then another. Suddenly its head jerks, it looks up the track and then scampers away. Is there another train coming? Not usually so soon, not according to the timetable.

This one’s slower. It grinds to a squeaking, hissing halt opposite me. The lights inside are bright - it’s less dark now. I see a lady sat in the window, halfway down the carriage. Her forehead is pressed against the window. It must feel cool. Perhaps she finds the city too much as well. I lean forward, to press my head against my bedroom window, like her. Unfortunately, it’s further away than I think, and I nearly topple forwards. I stop myself by placing my right palm on the window. It thuds, but I don’t expect anyone downstairs will hear. I look up at the train.

The lady has her palm on the window too! Her right! Can she see me? Well… I watch the people on the train every night. Why wouldn’t they be watching me? That shocks me a bit. What do they see? What did they think of me? Suddenly, I want to jump out if the window, run down the garden and… what? Talk to her, find out who she is, what she sees? I know that’s impossible. But if I can’t ask her, maybe I can still find out. Maybe I can take the train, see the world that she seest. Maybe this weekend. Maybe I’ll…

Maybe I’ll see someone like me.

The train brakes hiss, and the train is pulling away. I wave. The lady on the train waves back.