Recently, however, I noticed I was seeing a couple of familiar faces on my evening train. I smile at them, but I'm too tired to make conversation and frankly, I wouldn't want to try. No one wants to have their exhausted naps interrupted. I tend to seek out the end carriage (because it's the first one to pull into Cambridge station). A man in that carriage always sits in the same seat - I have no idea how he manages that; I assume he runs down the platform - and I often sit next to him when the seat is free. I like it because he's quite slim, he looks at his smartphone until we leave the station and then he buttons himself into his coat and goes to sleep. This leaves me free to read or sleep myself, and I'm comfortable in the seat because I'm not being squashed by a gigantic man. I assume he likes it for the same reason - I'm quiet and small and I don't disturb him until I have to leave at Cambridge.
Last week I raced onto the train, having been held up by the Piccadilly line, which was being regulated to even out the gaps in the service. I jumped on the end carriage 45 seconds before departure, not expecting to see any empty seats. I lunged toward the first one I saw, gasping at the man in the aisle seat, "Excuse me, do you mind if I sit there?" He smiled and stood up so I could squeeze myself in. As I fished through my bag in search of my Kindle, I felt eyes on me. I turned my head and caught the eye of the man I would opt to sit next to if I'd seen him. The seat next to him was also empty.
He looked wounded.
The next evening I made a point of getting there early so I could sit next to him. He smiled extra-brightly as he stood up to let me in by the window, and settled happily back for his nap.