Where Are You Headed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
I wont pretend that this is by any means a great story with loads of meaning. But it's quite a nice little fantasy at least, I hope you enjoy it.

Submitted: February 22, 2009

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Submitted: February 22, 2009

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Where Are You Headed?

‘The next station is Embankment.’ He balanced his coffee between his knees and his guitar case and polished off the salmon-cream cheese bagel. In hindsight, these purchases had been a more expensive and less healthy option than waiting a little until he got home, boiling the kettle and heating up the remains of the Shepherdess pie. The brakes screeched a little in complaint as the train drew to a heavy halt and the doors slid open, definitively not silently. His attention was drawn away from the ‘Phoenix University’ advert by a girl. She was of medium height, with blue eyes and light blonde hair, and had bright white headphones in her ears. Her face was not ‘fit’ but pretty – without the all too obvious (and all too common) trappings of overuse of makeup. She swung herself elegantly into the seat opposite him. Their eyes met for a second. There was a pinprick pause, then: ‘So where are you headed?’
She pulled the headphones out of her ears. ‘Camden.’
‘Going out or heading home?’
She smiled in a pleasant way. ‘Home,’ she said. ‘I’ve been out by the river– met up with a friend.
‘Oh, nice’ He replied. ‘I’m also heading home – I was in South London collecting this’ – he tapped the top of the guitar in its black, well cushioned, case.
‘Wow, South London, trek for a fellow North Londoner.’
They shared a grin of experience as he replied ‘hell yes.’ Another quick pause. ‘What did you do by the river’
‘On nothing all that exciting – went to see a film which was so-so.’ She sighed, lightly, yet it seemed she expelled some lingering disappointment she had felt about her day’s events.
‘Agh. I actually have a small reputation on this front.’ He smiled widely. ‘I refuse to see films with friends. It just seems so anti-social and such a waste of money too. If it’s not the film then it’s the food – you know they make a 1700% profit on the popcorn.’
She raised her eyebrows in a comically surprised way at this mini rant, smiled, and said ‘You know what, I might just attempt to gain that reputation for myself. I couldn’t agree with you more. So, what station are you getting off at?’
‘Finchley Central.’
At these words a small group of people a little way down the carriage did a mock cheer ‘FINCHLEYYY.’
Both he and she turned to this group, sporting wide grins, then turned back to one another.
‘My Aunt lives in Finchley’ she said in a slightly singsong voice, and then more quietly, as if speaking to herself ‘haven’t seen her for ages actually…’
He furrowed his eyebrows for a second and then raised them, pursing his lips at the same time in an expression of ‘OK then. Moving on…’
She read this expression correctly and did a mini giggle. ‘Sorry for that utterly useless and irrelevant piece of information.’
‘Oh no nothing wrong with irrelevant – on an existentialist slash manically depressed note, one could certainly say that it is no more irrelevant than everything else we do in our lives.’
Looking vaguely surprised and yet also pleased with this sudden deepening of the conversation she thought for a second, and then replied. ‘Yes, but we can’t look at everything like that else we wouldn’t be able to function as people. Being human, we have to look at things on a human level.’
He also seemed vaguely surprised – he had expected a response that equated to ‘OK. That may be true. I met you five minutes ago on a tube train. You’re extremely odd.’ It was pleasant surprise though, and he responded. ‘But with that approach, constantly trying to function, we risk actually becoming functions– and why such fear of failure. What great life hasn’t included include failure of some sort?’ He made quote marks with his hands ‘ “The only failure is never to try.”’ His voice became less serious again ‘But I must point out, these aren’t my words – In about three sentences I have managed to quote my teacher, a band called ‘The Passengers’ and a famous clich How pretentious.’
She let her eyes linger for a second where they had been when he was speaking, then gave him a slightly consoling gaze ‘Meh, I don’t think so, providing you actually believed what you said. Anyway I agree with what you I think. However there does have to be a balance.’ There were a few seconds of silence.
‘The next station is Camden Town’
The cold, calm, female voice brought them both back to reality and they broke into a mutual grin, then she stood up. ‘Well I must get off now.’
He followed suit in standing and extended his hand. ‘A pleasure to meet you.’ She giggled, took his hand and pulled him forward, placing a kiss on his reddening cheek. ‘Facebook? MSN?’ He enquired as the doors screeched open.
‘Nope,’ she replied, jumping lightly onto the platform. ‘But I’ll be on the bridge in Camden at 5 tomorrow.’
‘What a coincidence’ he shouted after her, his lips bending into a face engulfing smile. Then, as the doors slid jerkily together, he too turned and sat back in his seat.

This is all imagination, of course. The true events were more like this:
She sat in the seat opposite. We caught each other’s eyes for a second, and then I flicked my gaze up to the ‘Elephant car insurance’ add behind her. Once its cheesy slogans and poor attempt to persuade had been absorbed, and my brain had reminded me that, being 15, I had little need for such a product, I moved my gaze to the tube map. I stole sneaking glances at her face whilst planning an imaginary route between Stanmore and South Kensington, and noticed that she seemed unusually captivated by some other advert, directly above my head. At Charing Cross a family boarded and she smiled to herself at the antics of the two toddlers, as did I. At Leister Square she gave up her seat to an old man, and at Camden Town she got off. The headphones remained firmly in her ears.

Resolution (It is near new year, after all): If an interesting (and/or attractive) looking person happens to alight in the seat opposite me, I should be mindful of the very large gap between fulfilled opportunities and might have beens.

Mossy Wittenberg


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