Standing waiting for the morning train, and I can feel season’s change – the light is already softer, gentler; a tender autumn sun that doesn’t singe and burn. The train pulls in and this is special morning as, for once, it’s almost empty.
In a set of four seats there is place enough for ten people, but we are only five. Opposite me and across the aisle, there is an ordinary middle-aged couple, dressed casually, as if on holiday.
But what’s interesting is that they’re lovers.
Not a settled, happily-married couple, not comfortable long-time partners. No.
They sit enfolded in one another, every possible surface touching as they take a ride that seems as if it will tear them apart. While the train moves, they fold their hands together, they lean their heads one below the other – and they shut their eyes, because then they’re alone.
And, while this doesn’t have the can’t-be-apart-or-we’ll-die frantic energy of first teenage love, it has something infinitely sweeter: the second chance – at life, at love, at something.
The train stops at a station and (because our driver is an enthusiastic braker without the benefit of rhythm, or timing) we all slide down our grey leatherette seats. I observe the couple, and as we all hitch ourselves back up, she moves in even closer to him. Holding her, he dozes for a moment or two – which may mean that they have been awake all night, and no-one over the age of 45 pulls that unless there is no other choice.
I don’t know what to think about these two autumn lovers: are they cheating, is this ride a stolen 45 minutes? Are they a holiday romance, and the holiday is about to end? Does he work far away for months and months at a time? Were they married, then separated, and have found each other again?
Whatever their story, it has a Tristan-and-Isolde sadness to its edges – I find myself hoping that it works out for the best, the real best.