The 6:23am to Glasgow Central

Looming large through the early morning mist
The 6:23am to Glasgow Central 
Half-filled with the less than half-awake
Pulls in to platform 5

I take my seat and my ritual begins without thought
Case – up above, jacket – to my side
Ipad to the left, phones to the right
headphones plugged in to the ipad and my ears in turn.

Something is not right
Millions of years of evolution
Tells me instinctively that something is out of place
Though it is not clear at this stage what that is.

It takes me a minute, maybe two
To work out that, whatever it is, it’s something 
To do with the man in his fifties, sitting three seats up 
and the other side of the aisle

My eyes scan him briefly
His double denim apparel
His streaked silver hair 
His eyes, tired and bloodshot

But tired and bloodshot eyes do not make someone standout
Not even double denim
You have to remember that this is
The 6:23am to Glasgow Central

It’s not clear what I’m looking for
This isn’t a rational review 
My eyes scan him as thoroughly as they can
While still avoiding eye contact – I’m English after all

And then I see it – there on the table
White painted metal
Tall, slender, with hints of green
And flashbacks to less controlled times

And slowly it comes properly into focus
Slimline gin and tonic
In a can
On the 6:23am to Glasgow central

There’s a certain defiance – arrogance maybe
No attempt to hide
And I can’t work out whether that’s good or bad 
Whether I should applaud or condemn

There are other questions
Dancing around my mind 
Such as how do I recognise 
That shape so well

What does it say about me 
That I’m judging his beverage
As I pull at the ringpull
Of one my own many addictions

Knowing that, were the train 
To be going in a different direction
Albeit a few hours later
Those slender cans might be on my table

Why do I feel so smug
At his drinking slimline gin and tonic on the 6:23 am to Glasgow Central
When I would quite happily drink slimline gin and tonic on
The 3:17pm to London Euston

And I’m left with a single, disturbing thought. 
Do those eight hours
And fifty four minutes
Really make such a difference?

(c) Michael Gurner – April 2019

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