Travellers

By: Shannon Swindall

 

Ghostly screeches and vibrations fill my ears and take over my personal space. I sit still, wedged involuntarily between potential undiscovered talent and a business mannequin. Rapid glances dart back and forth as if we all lay witness to a Wimbledon match. Luckily for my sanity it’s way past rush hour and the lull of the tracks suddenly becomes a deafening groan above the heavy breathing of its passengers.

Our carriage finally makes its entrance into Bond Street station and the exhausted few drag themselves from their resting place. The seat residing opposite me had been unoccupied until this very moment. I watched subtly as a woman threw herself into the open space, being reckless but mindful of others all in one instance. She seemed to attract the attention of all without even taking a breath. Despite initially seeming to camouflage among the other dark and shadowed commuters, there was something much brighter about her, and it enchanted us.

My curiosity intensified as her skeletal fingers reached out for the baby apple that buried itself inside its neon yellow carrier. She drew the fruit out as if to prepare herself for bowling championships; enforcing heat on its outer shell and making it gleam. Within a second, she reached down her body, all the way to the floor. She pulled back her smart black office trousers, and revealed dirt-covered trainers that simply hung loose from her feet. Above them were two black socks towered by a small white flower on each. I couldn’t tell where she had previously been that day. The office, maybe? Out running? Smart casual?

In that moment the mousey brown haired figure made everyone in her space stare. She began to aggressively rub the apple against her sock, like that was the only item of clothing that would do the trick. She paused a little, creasing her eyes behind her specs, and exhaled such a dissatisfied breath. Once again she went back to manoeuvring the fruit across her sock, unaware of the eyes that were focussed on her.

I expected this to be the end of the show. However, her hand dived back into the fluorescent bag; now, bringing out a small piece of battered newspaper. Faces throughout the commute continued to gaze in her direction and follow her unfamilar movements. She held the paper gently and laid it out flat on her lap like the cautious putting to sleep of a child. Her small eyes scanned the sheet from corner to corner. She then folded the paper up; first in half, then down to a quarter of its size. The audience was still with her and, before anyone could blink, she removed a piece of over chewed gum from her expressionless mouth; shoving it within the neat folds of last week’s headlines. The entirety of her motions amazed me. It was as if she was in her own pod of oblivion. She completely removed everyone around her and blanked out their existence.

After shoving the sticky paper back within its original home she finally sat back in a state of contentment. My eyes stayed subtly fixed on this woman; it was apparent that there was still more to come. We all looked on as she next placed the apple between her teeth like a suckling pig and continued to keep it there for a good few minutes. Her hands were occupied by her smartphone as both of her thumbs shot rapidly at the screen; all the while the infant apple stayed within her clasped jaw, not moving.

As we sped from station to station, the carriage began to fill to the point that someone blocked my view of her. However, within several minutes, I was able to catch a small glimpse just as she was exiting on to the platform. I saw what little was left of her miniature juicy snack; the stem and possibly an inch of the core. The rest was devoured. Having not actually been able to see the eating process itself, I wondered if she had actually eaten the fruit at all, or if she had some poor starving creature hidden within the depths of her bag.

Although there was nothing left on the tube to prove that she had existed, and that the moment had truly happened, I was still left wondering who she was, and where she’d been. I started considering who knew her; who could be lucky enough to know such a woman who could capture the attention of several strangers purely by eating an apple, and playing with some newspaper.

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