On the way home I sat in the tube, leaning forward from the bag slung over my back and yes, perhaps taking up a little too much room on the armrest. At the next stop the lady next to me mumbled something and moved to a vacant seat further down.
I looked up and asked with a shy giggle, “Did i do something?”
She answered with her own shy giggle, “No, I just want to be able to lean my head against the glass because I’m so tired.”
I, nervous of any tension or commuter guilt this may have generated say, “Oh, sorry, I heard you mumble something and thought I might have driven you away or….” and descend again into the shy giggle.
She responds again with a shy giggle and we turn slowly back to our own space with that final ah/um that the world over means “That’s the end of that then.”
Perhaps, if the rest of the carriage hadn’t been so quiet, I might have asked her why she was so tired. No, I know I would have. And yet only a few minutes later, on my second train home, the man next to me was having a long and loud personal conversation in a similarly quiet carriage. Is it the semi-anonymity that makes this conversation more acceptable? Is it acceptable? Or is the carriage too quiet for someone to risk asking him to end it?