Strangers on a Train

I’m sitting in the window seat and I’m going backwards so I’m watching the landscape fly past. I won’t be able to look out at the landscape much longer before it gets dark so I make the most of it. The sky is clear and the sun will soon be setting, the colour of the sky blending from light blue to a warm, soothing yellow surrounding the sun. I can see fields, empty ones and ones with cattle. I can see trees and bushes, signs of wildlife.

I’m making my journey alone, going back to my hometown to visit family. When I’m alone I become much more aware of my surroundings and of the people around me. I love people-watching. Seeing others going about their own lives, with their own things to do and people to see. Wondering about each and every individual and coming up with a scenario of their life in my own head.

It’s getting darker. The farther we go the cloudier it has become so I won’t see a beautiful sunset like I had hoped. There are a family across the aisle from me. The three of them. It took me a while to figure out the relations between them but I realised there was a dad, a son, and a new woman. The step-mother figure. She was trying so hard with the boy, she really was. She was trying so hard I almost felt embarrassed for her. Not that there is anything wrong with the fact that she was trying hard but it just seemed so obvious that the boy was using it to his advantage. She was playing card games with him the whole journey. Persuading her partner to let the boy have more sweets like he wanted.

I go back to reading my book, ‘The Girl on the Train’, accidentally apt. Like the girl in the book I am watching others and imagining what their lives are like. She sees a glimpse of a couple and envisions that they must live a perfect, happy and full life. So happily and deeply in love. How different the truth turns out to be.

Real life is a lot like that, people see a glimpse, people share a snapshot. It is always what they want you to see and how they want to portray themselves. All the pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The best moments, carefully selected and edited, to show how happy and amazing their lives are. Everyone constantly comparing and competing in every aspect of their lives, down to every little detail.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.

We stop at another station and I see a woman walk past pulling a heavy suitcase. I wonder where she is travelling to, who she is going to see. What is she carrying with her and what is important to her. Everyone has specific things which have sentimental value to them which to other people may seem ridiculous.

I look out of the window and it is completely dark now, we go through a tunnel and I look at my reflection. I see myself, a white girl in a black headscarf. I look in my eyes and I see the journey I have been on to get where I am today. Not literally to get to the train but where I am in my life. I see the strength I have now that I did not have before. I wonder what other people see when they look at me. Do they just see a headscarf and fail to see more beyond that? Do they fear what I represent with this headscarf? Do they wonder what it is that I love to do, where I came from and where I am going. Do they wonder about my personal goals or do they just see a headscarf? Do they see a headscarf and not a person. A woman with hopes and dreams. A woman who loves and cares for those close to her, a woman who has been hurt but has become stronger.

I wonder what they see.

 

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