Sunday, September 2

Training Tales: The Lovers

I felt sick. I'd only been working in this new role for a few weeks and so much was already expected of me. This wasn't my first experience in middle management, but it was the first time since entering the workforce that I had felt legitimately challenged. Every role before now had followed a similar theme: overpaid, underworked and bored out of my brain. This was so different, I just wanted to tune out, but I was already thinking of tomorrow.

Now for the trip home. Two hours of maybe reading, more than likely playing games and battling motion sickness. "At least I get to work closer to home tomorrow," I thought to comfort myself. I exploded out of the office early, only to see my bus speed away over ten minutes before it should have. If I wanted to get home before dark, I'd need to improvise. With a little luck and a fair bit of backtracking, I was on my way home on the usual service, only two stops earlier.

My mind was racing far too quickly for me to engage with any text: videogame or otherwise. I would need to seek stimulus from my fellow passengers.

Like I said, I was feeling sick. Motion sick, sick with worry, all kinds of ill. My stomach lurched back and forth with the train, and it audibly gurgled throughout my journey. It was the usual afternoon mix: a lot of the same faces that were on the morning train mixed with young students yet to be relegated to a life of processing, data entry and broken dreams.

What I saw next would not help with my stomach's discontent, though it was oddly touching.

A couple, not apparent at first as they sat with one seat between them. They were both obese, with the woman having greater girth than the young man. Their faces were covered in pimples, and their skin grimy with a day's worth of city air. They wore bright colours and glanced at each other often.

Was I about to see love blossom between strangers, or had they run out of things to say to each other? It happens: spend enough time with someone and the language you share with them need not be explicit. My wife and I engage in thumb wars when we've run out of anecdotes or energy. What proceeded was no mere twiddling of appendages, it was an expression of affection that was (what I hope to be, at least) unique to this couple.

The young man, not happy to merely look at his supposed love, turned his head and burped towards her. She returned fire almost immediately. A volley of gastric mating calls errupted in the carriage. My fellow commuters looked just as stunned as I did, one even moving to cover the eyes of her young daughter. More problematic was the fact that the barrage seemed endless. I'm sure it only lasted a few minutes, but to me, on that day -- with my stomach lurching in time with the swaying train carriage -- it felt like I'd been watching this odd ritual for an eternity.

As the train pulled in to the lovers' stop, they rose in time and turned their heads to face each other and they smiled. The woman grabbed her partner's hand and they lumbered off the carriage. Those left in the lovers' wake shared knowing glares and collected themselves: there was still a while to travel.

Finally, it was my time to disembark. I raced up the stairs to meet my wife. I smiled at her and we shared a brief kiss. My stomach gave way to one last belch following the afternoon's distress, and I almost expected my partner to burp back.

"I've got to find another way home from work," I thought.

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