19 June 2012

Grey

Tara ran down the stairs two at a time, jostling a few people, and desperately hoping she hadn't missed the 13.31 metro. The next one would leave 3 minutes later, but she couldn't risk being late again. She was on probation. Running onto the platform, she heaved a sigh. It hadn’t yet arrived. 

A few seconds passed before she noticed a man standing a few feet away. Clean-shaven. Piercing grey eyes. She especially noticed the eyes, because they were fixed on her in an unblinking gaze. Fidgeting uncomfortably, she started to walk away as the train pulled in. A mass of people poured out. She scrambled to find an opening in the human wall and squeezed herself through the doors. Taking a corner seat, she looked around, relieved that the man was nowhere to be seen. Her phone buzzed, and as she busied herself replying to the latest text message, he sat down in the row right across from her. She looked up straight into his staring grey eyes, discomfited. But at least there were a few feet between them, and she wouldn't be groped like on the buses. No, she liked the metro, and a creepy ogling guy wasn’t going to change that. She looked studiously in the opposite direction. 

His foot nudged a briefcase, knocking it over. Tara hadn’t noticed the baggage he carried until then. Her mind raced, conjuring images of the awareness advertisements and terrorist threats splashed across the paper over the past week: look out for anything suspicious, people with briefcases, dressed oddly, standing out in a crowd. She had merely glanced at them, but now she paid attention. Out of the corner of her eye, she took in the black long-sleeved loose shirt he wore. An odd choice for the scorching Delhi summer. Before she could stop herself, her brain was firing red alerts as it put the details together. 

She took a deep breath and wondered what to do. He was still staring, almost as though he was hoping to catch her eye. Was she just being paranoid, letting the uncomfortable situation play with her taut nerves? Maybe she ought to tell someone about her suspicions when she got off. The security officers. Although, how on earth could he have gotten past security undetected? He couldn't have. Could he? She frowned and wrung her hands desperately. 

"Agla stop Nayi Dilli. Next stop is New Delhi Railway Station. Doors will open to the right." 

Should she inform on him or walk away? What on earth would she say? “He’s wearing a black shirt”? What if there was nothing to it? What if he was just an outsider, a tourist? Those grey eyes were certainly not common around here. 

"New Delhi Railway Station." People scrambling. The human wall. Sliding doors. 

But then again, what if he wasn't? Was she going to let herself read about something in the newspaper the next day, knowing she could have prevented it? 

The doors were sliding shut when the man got up, grabbed his briefcase and stepped onto the platform. Surprised, Tara didn't realise that she was following his movements with her eyes. The train started to move, and she was gazing unblinkingly at him through the window. The piercing grey eyes turned upon her one last time as the distance grew. She wrung her hands desperately.

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