Strangers on a train

“Is that even real???????? You are kidding me aren’t you” …
“Nope. It’s just as I told ya” , I replied

The city had dense grey clouds. The damp roads only meant that it had been raining. I stopped by the usual shop to pick a cup of coffee and since there was an early meeting, I dashed towards the station. On a day like today, It was a blessing of sorts when the train , that was nearly empty, arrived on time. I took my seat and quickly made a mental note of things that I had to discuss over the call. 

It was two stations later where he boarded the train. The coach was still empty. The skies had already opened up and the warm smell of rain filled the train. He took a good around the coach and decided to sit beside me. He was pleasantly dressed. Black trousers, ironed sky blue shirt, brown shoes that were polished to a neat little shine, yup he did look sharp in them. 
“Are you from India” he broke ice. We got talking and soon enough we reached a point where he felt comfortable to ask about how the institution of arranged marriages worked. 
“Boy meets girl, photos actually. Then whatsapp, then Skype, then families beat around the bush for a while, bada bing song and dance and you tie the knot.” 

We both laughed. I guess men would always be men. The idiosyncrasies of love marriages and marriages ended as a loveless union of two folks did make an amusing conversation. I checked the phone for the time and the train had transitioned from staying over the ground to hitting the tunnels under. The mobile reception instantly went dead. One does get used to this. I placed my phone in my pockets and eagerly jumped right back into the conversation with this engaging stranger. 
We spoke of differences in life, ambitions, dreams and the outlook towards everything around for a while. We did exchange the good bits of the worlds that were apart. We soon ventured into the whining lands of how our worlds still had a long way in growing up. Conversation was an easy one. It felt a lot more easier because of his face. Angel like innocence reflected in his shining light brown eyes. There was a certain glow to it. Through our conversations, I could see his eyes play. They were shifty. His face screamed of peace. He had a very soft demeanour about him. Every tiny movement was executed in a soft gentle seamless motion. 
There was something very unsettling about how there was nothing felt unsettling about him. So his name was a Mark Edwords something. Worked as a bloke who specialized in custom mannequins. I presumed it was something to do with crash dummies or something in the fashion industry. The point is, there was nothing out of the blue about him. 
I rested my scepticism and decided to ignore the healthy overabundant sense of mistrust that I usually harboured in my heart. The only thing a little odd about him was his over protective attitude towards his bag. If I had to fathom a guess, I thought he was more than capable of robbing a bank and making an exit by the train. My eyes would find themselves training to his bag from time to time. 

He picked the cues and carried his bag and let it softly drop again. The bag didn’t crash with a loud thud. There was nothing heavy in it. No bricks of cash, no stolen goods. I finally shed all inhibitions about Mark. It helped me enjoy the conversations better. 
We then spoke about the ever so prevalent hate which led to a conversation about love. There was a momentary awkward pause and he finally concluded by saying that love was meant to last forever and that he felt blessed that his was meant to be that. I instinctively put my hand over my head and called out touch wood. 

Mark carelessly kicked his bag a few times from then on. I could sense a tinge of restlessness in him. His face still looked serene, his eyes still shifty.
“That’s my stop ” he suddenly called out. Strangers on a train, friends but not really friends. We didn’t feel the need to exchange numbers or make a deliberate effort to remain friends. I shook his hand and wished him a great day ahead. He smiled and waved and exit through the doors. 

A few stops later, I alighted the train and took the crowded escalator towards the street. I left the station and decided to walk to work. A few seconds my phone buzzed. Whatsappnotifs, and News app had a notif too. News’ notif was a new, I didn’t remember downloading that app. I decided to open it and see what it had to offer. 
My heart froze in gripping fear.
Mark’s face was all over the news. The bloke who had murdered his girlfriend, the previous evening, in cold blood, beheaded her and was reported absconding. The coppers had published his picture to keep the rest of us safe!!!!!!! 

****************

Inspired by this bloke that I met this morning in the train. Same shifty eyes, a gentle face that put angels to shame. There was something so unsettling about him, bad lousy vibes and I couldn’t help but wonder about the dark secrets that rested comfortable behind his soft soothing shifty eyes! 

Karthik

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