Since selling my car a year ago to stretch my finances for my writing business, I have relied on public transport a lot more. I live in Swindon but have friends in Bristol, Exeter and several other places across the south. Now I am in a long-distance relationship with a girlfriend who lives in Cornwall. This means that I have got used to doing most of my travelling by train. Having visited Exeter yesterday to see off a friend who will be moving to the USA next month, it occurred to me just how train stations can be metaphors for our journey through life.
Two conversations I overheard yesterday while waiting on a platform at Bristol Temple Meads for my connecting train back to Swindon made me realise how railway platforms represent brief moments in time on the journey of life.
One conversation between two people – one male and one female of around university age – were parting for an undetermined length of time. There was lots of kissing and cuddling, neither wanted to let go and when his train rolled in there was the inevitable “I’ll miss you”. A few paces away was a goodbye of a different kind, a conversation between two men, one that ended with “I never want to see you again.”
#The next train to arrive at platform nine is the…#
14 platforms, 14 directions and an infinite possibility of destinations with unlimited permutations of getting there. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, lovers and friends, strangers even. It has all come down to this – a railway line, two simple metal rails leading off into the distance, curving away through the city like snakes.
I always come through on this line on this platform, it’s always the same. Like how nobody ever shows you where the Red Brick Road leads, I’ve never found out where the one next to it goes. Like friends, it’ll follow my line in step and the two synchronise happily until one twists away at the last moment. Where does it go? Somewhere else, it no longer matters but that curiosity of where the line now leads fuels us to want to find out some day.
Railway lines are like old friends. They are there, always there until the time comes for them to leave and you can no longer see where they have gone. You may sometimes get glimpses of their new direction; sometimes another track will pull alongside you, come into step before it too moves away.
Railway lines are the people in our lives and the platforms are the single moment in time and you will never get that moment back. Goodbyes are rarely forever and they always began with a “hello” – that first date or the first hello after a lengthy time apart. While one couple is embracing their goodbye at one end of the platform, at the other end is another couple hugging each other with beaming smiles that say: hold me tightly, I’ve missed you, it’s wonderful to see you, kiss me.
For every “I’ll miss you” there is an “I’ve missed you”; for every “I can’t wait to see you again” there is “I never want to see you again.” A railway platform is a microcosm of life, a place of passing, of brief encounters of hellos and goodbyes – a moment in time on the journey of life.