To a rail uniform I said: Which platform’s the Birmingham train going from? Four horsemen, he said and I thanked him. Then stood outside with a smoke I looked at the overcast above the east Manjester moors. Time passes. Time always passes. A woman in Virgin Trains colours looked at me. This is it now. I jogged down the platform. I got on the intercity and from my inside jacket pocket my right hand pulled the ticket. Eyes stared at me. I asked a black guy if he was okay. He said he was, just as a wrinkled man locked his gaze and I spread my face in rictus looking at him for three seconds and then the LED panels above the seats. Mine was 15 A. Opposite in 16 B a shirt-and-tie mumbled something about reserved and I unzipped my bag, got WS’s Tragedies Volume 3. The train began shunting.
. . .
An olive-skinned woman in jeans said: This is my seat. She meant the window one. So I got up and she shuffled past and in my peripheral I checked her arse, which was nice, a nectarine. Then I stared at letters, words, commas, full-stops: Sonnet 60. The woman put on the table a little bottle and began varnishing her fingernails and at the chemical pong that like clung to your face I said to myself: Hope it don’t give us migraine. It would be a mini-hell. The ticket inspector came though and when he was three seats away the woman put the bottle in her handbag and I was like: The sneak knows it’s antisocial. But the inspector left and the bottle returned and the smell went up my noseholes into my brain that was reading but not reading. More, I was aware of another woman. Her eyes said: I know you’ve been howling in your room.