On the Platform
It’s happened to me now three times, and until the first time, I had no idea how magical it would be.
You see it in films: the train pulling in or pulling out of the station, with one character on the train and another on the platform, waiting to welcome or waving goodbye. There’s a romance in it that’s impossible to deny. Part of it is the train itself. Part is how a train can take you to another place, another life (Platform 9 3/4, anyone?) Another part is all about the human connection.
I live in a virtually passenger-train-free place. If I wanted to ride a train, I could go two hours south to get the Amtrak Downeaster, and it would take me through to North Station in Boston. This is why, perhaps, that I never pass up an opportunity to take a train when I visit the UK. In my heart of hearts, I am a romantic, and trains appeal to the part of my nature that wants adventure–the part that wants to see myself as a character in a wonderful story. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Back to that first time. Take the train from Fareham to Bristol Temple Meads and change for Worcester Shrub Hill, Roger instructed, because he’s a transportation guru and knows these sorts of things. I almost missed the connection in Bristol, because I got off one train and the Worcester train left from an entirely different platform on an entirely different level–so I was in full Easily-Frightened-Person mode by the time I found my seat. Perhaps that’s why, as the conductor voice on the train announced Next station Worcester Shrub Hill, and as I stood to retrieve my bag and make my way to the door I was relieved to see, on the platform scanning the cars–my friends Julia and Roger. I saw them in the briefest of seconds before they saw me, and in that tiny bit of time came the full-scale realization: they were looking through the windows for me, me, not anyone else. Then they saw me, and the two of them smiled. I’m sure I did, too, and that single moment was ours. In it, we were the only people in the universe who mattered.
It happened again at Worcester Shrub this spring,
when I came in from Banbury (missed the connection at Oxford, had to take the next train an hour later)–and there was Julia. This time I was looking for her, because I knew what that single moment of belonging felt like. And I got to experience it again a few days later, when my train pulled into London Paddington, and there, sidling up as he does, was John-from-Islington. It’s a miraculous feeling, to know that, of all the people in the station, of all the people on the train, of all the people, you’re the one: there’s someone on that platform who enjoys your company enough to come collect you, and to make you feel wanted.
Three times. I’m the luckiest person in the world.
Apropos of nothing, John was wearing the most wonderful blue wing-tipped shoes when he met me–an absolute symphony of blue, my favorite color, he was. I followed him all over London Paddington to our tube platform and could not keep my envious eyes from his shoes. I still can’t get over them.