The Manchester Review
Ali Smith
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I had come to the conclusion. I had nothing more to say. I had looked in the cupboard and found it was bare. I had known in my bones it was over. I had reached the end of my tether. I had dug until I'd hit rock bottom. I had gone past the point of no return. I had come to the end of the line.
      But at the end of the line, when the train stopped, like everybody else I got off and walked back along the platform to the exit. I scrabbled in my pocket for the ticket, fed the ticket into the slot in the machine. The machine snatched it with what felt like volition but what was really only automation, then opened its padded gates for me and shut them behind me. Then I walked out past the taxis, across the dismal car park and up the pedestrian bridge.
      From here I could see the empty train, the same train we'd all just been on, as it shunted from the platform to wherever the empty trains go.
From this angle I could see into the carriages, in fact I could see right into the carriage I'd just travelled to the end of the line in.
      The carriage had been packed, all the seats taken ten minutes before the train left and the train still filling with people until the moment before its doors closed on us; the journey had been an exercise in aloofness, with people who didn't know each other swaying towards then carefully away from each other in the aisles, people trying to not sway into each other in the doorways, people towering above the rather buxom woman in the wheelchair, reading the magazine. She'd been there in the special wheelchair-designated place when I boarded the train. Somehow the swaying standing people were worse above her head, I thought, than they were above the heads of people just sitting ordinarily in the train seats; somehow it was the last word in rudeness, that the edge of one man's open jacket kept brushing against the back of her head.
      That's how I knew, from up here on the slant of the bridge, that this train below was the same train I'd just been on, and that's how I could spot exactly the carriage I'd been on, because that woman in the wheelchair who'd been in the same carriage as me was still there on that empty train, I could see from here that she was leaning forward in her chair and beating on the train door with her fist. I could see she was yelling. I knew she was making a lot of noise and I knew I couldn't hear any of it.
      I watched the silent beat of her. Then the train slid out of view.
      The driver will find her, I thought. Surely they check to make sure their trains are empty. Surely people must fall asleep or be caught on trains like that all the time. Probably she has a mobile and has called people and let them know. It’s even possible that she wants to be on that train, that she's meant to be on it, there, alone.