I step on to the crossing before looking up from my screen. Just like mother told me not to. A blur of lycra swerves past, wafting a trail of sweat and ‘Stupid bitch!’
The woman across the street turns to see the star of this commotion. I hide my face in split ends and stare at the shoe strap not covering the hole in my tights.
Surviving my second attempt at crossing the road, I examine the woman with what I call a desire for self-improvement. I suspect her style is informed by extravagant nonsense like taste and research, not gambles delivered to her desk because she forgot the stupid bloody work do is this Friday not next, for example.
She isn’t rushing. Which reminds me to message the office, tell them about delays on the line. There are bound to be some. Oh, how I love days like these. Late for a job I don’t want but need, to work with people I can’t stand.
The Woman (I’ve upgraded her to capitals) probably hasn’t pressed the snooze button five times and definitely isn’t wearing yesterday’s knickers. She exudes posture, poise and other p words I didn’t even know. I exude eau de Bewildered Loser.
The headline on my phone, the one that almost got me killed earlier read, Be The Advert for Your Life. She’s an advert for a life someone might actually want. Mine would be stuck in a newsagent’s window with yellowing sticky tape; between ‘Man With A Van – No Job Too Small’ and ‘Massage, Very Clean’.
Trains rumble underground while I stab my pass at the turnstile until it takes pity and lets me through. Her salon fresh hair bounces with every step down the stairs. Even gravity looks better on her. I grip the commuter smoothed bannister, not trusting these heels and my luck.
The rush of tunnel-warmed air tells me a carriage is racing to be on time for her. My platform is another level down, but I’ll hop on her carriage for a few stops. Study that self-possessed serenity, breathe the confident air. If it’s standing room only, we might break underground etiquette and share a sisterly smile, maybe even speak. The approaching train roars its approval of this plan.
A ripple shivers through her perfect hair and well-cut clothes as she puts a pedicured toe to the yellow line. Her next poised and purposeful step takes her in front of the train. The wall of metal and toughened glass suspends her mid-stride; destroys her before the brakes scream, before I scream.
Tom O’Brien is an Irishman living in London. He has words in numerous places including EllipsisZine, Reflex and Spelk and in print in Blood & Bourbon, Blink-Ink and DEFY! Anthologies. His novella Straw Gods will be published by Reflex Press in 2020