You sit back as the early morning train pulls out of the station. Everyone in the carriage is either dozing or putting in their headphones. You reach into your own bag, into the pouch where you keep your own headphones… It’s empty. You root around some more. Nothing. You check other parts of your bag, all in vain. That’s when you remember. Yesterday, you took your headphones off and put them away in your coat. But, this morning, you didn’t bring your coat. All around you, other passengers have withdrawn into themselves, listening to music or podcasts, or trying to get to sleep.
It’s quiet, you reassure yourself. Nothing to worry about. For now…
“NEXT STATION…” begins the call over the PA system. The train comes to a halt, some passengers shuffle on to your carriage and take seats. After some settling in, the quiet is restored.
“NEXT STATION…” further down the line and seats begin to fill, yet the carriage is mostly silent, except for the odd cough or sneeze.
“NEXT STATION…” and there are no unoccupied seats. The train doors attempt to close, but reopen with a brief hiss that is quickly replaced by the sound of a woman boarding with her friend.
“…honestly like, it’s mad, really, I mean, like, they’re not like that at all-“
Finding no seats, they stand in the aisle beside you.
“-all the DRAMA, oh my God – I mean, you know, like, it’s mad to think that, because they’re good girls – you know, talk to them one to one? – they’re not like that at all, at least, I mean, I don’t think they are – it’s just funny, I think, you know? – like, EVERYONE knows they, sort of, just get along, I mean, it’s not like them AT ALL, all of this, like, it’s just not like them – I know it’s probably, like, some small thing, you know – but it’s always, like, some small thing, isn’t it? – so they’ll be grand, I mean, they’ve got, like, the summer to just move on, you know, actually get over it, forget about it, sort of, I mean, look back and see how small a thing it is, that sort of thing – but, you know, if they only, like, talked to each other? – I mean, they’d have it sorted by now – but that’s those girls, you know, like, all talking and no one ACTUALLY listening-”
Her friend coughs.
“Oh my God, are you OK? – would you like a lozenge? – I think I have some in my bag?”
Her friend shakes her head. “It’s fine,” she rasps, taking a bottle of water from her own bag.
“Once you’re sure – but, keep an eye on it, you know – I mean, like, something’s doing the rounds at the minute – a girl at work, the very same, like, just a little tickly cough, thought nothing of it, you know, and she’s been out DAYS now, it’s SO bad-“
The train stops and more passengers pile on-board, pressing in to increasingly confined spaces. Once the doors are securely closed, the train moves on again.
“I mean, just keep an eye on it – like, it’s actually the last thing you’d need – don’t put off seeing the doctor, either, that’s what she did – the girl in work, I mean – sort of, just makes the whole thing worse, in a way – no need, like, way better off just dealing with it, you know? – although, in fairness, this girl, I mean – probably just playing it up, like, taking sick days because she can, sort of thing – very bad for that, NOTORIOUS, I mean, everyone on the team says it – she’s the kind who’d call in after a weekend, you know, all the photos online, like, no shame, say she has a bug or something, anyway – oh God no, you wouldn’t be like her at all, no comparison, you just look after yourself – I know you’d struggle through a sickness, like, you’re that type, a trooper – but, I mean, she’s not going to be with the team much longer, you know, not with that kind of carry-on – it’s on the manager though, isn’t it? – he lets her away with murder – absolute MURDER – I mean, the sick days and all the time off, like, she never has to explain herself, it’s really bad – he says nothing, sort of, lets it all go, doesn’t want the conflict – and, like, that affects the team, then, you know? – no one really bothers – it can’t last much longer, that’s all I’m saying – like, it’s got to reach a breaking point – too many people taking the piss, you know, while there’s a few of us trying to keep things ticking over-“
“Oh my God, that’s us already – like, these journeys actually get shorter and shorter – you know, like, I used to need headphones to put up with it, like most people, you know – but now, I don’t seem to mind as much, you know? – the time just, sort of, passes a little faster every time – I don’t know if it’s the earlier starts or what – I mean, I’ve DEFINITELY improved my diet, you know, like – the morning oats go a long way, then a bit of fruit or whatever by the time I get in to work – it’s really good – and the exercise I get now, I mean, the Pilates classes are amazing, like, they’re actually AMAZING – you know, it’s only been two weeks but, like, I’m really feeling the benefit of those already…”
The train stops and doors open. Her voice trails off as she follows her friend through the doors, on to the platform and away towards the station’s exit. In the calm that follows, you think to yourself:
“I will never forget my headphones, ever again.”
But you will. Some day, once again, you will forget, yet you’ll remember the days like these when you forgot your headphones.
The human brain, eh?