Dull eyes stared out of a grey face void of any emotion. The little man stood clutching a plastic briefcase on the edge of the platform that was part of a busy, city railway station. Thousands of commuters used the station everyday, hurrying to and from the trains. People pushed past him without noticing. He was a mere flyspeck, and nobody cared. He had stood on that very same spot each working day for the past ten years, invisible in the crowd.
There was nothing unusual about the station or the many commuters that used it. But the man standing close to the edge of the platform had made a decision that would make him stand out from the crowd. It would get the attention of radio, television and the press. It was a decision he had not made lightly.
All his life he had been a nobody. He was a failure, a loser. Everybody knew that, and no one was more certain of it than the little man himself. Over the past few weeks his life had become increasingly miserable. He had no friends, his family were not interested in him and his job had not changed in years.
Each evening the little man went back to his poky bed-sit with its faded floral wallpaper and stained carpet. He would turn the key in the lock, kick the bottom of the sticking door, switch on the TV, put the kettle on, tip the fish and chips on to a plate and slosh on the tomato ketchup, then pour hot water into a stained mug containing a teabag, sugar and milk and take supper over to the sofa that had seen better times in front of the TV. His routine never varied. He’d go to bed at 10:30pm, wake to the alarm at 7am, shower, breakfast of cornflakes and a cup of tea, make sandwiches and put in a plastic Tupperware box. He’d wash the dishes, and walk to station, arriving at 8:07am to catch the 8:10am train to his tiresome job.
There was a time when the little man’s life looked as if it had changed for the better. He had met someone just as lonely as himself. She was short, slightly overweight and a bit more outgoing than the little man. With difficulty they had made conversation when the little man sat next to her after an incident with an old lady and her walking stick. They found that they had loneliness in common. After a few days of meeting on the train the little man started to look forward to seeing her. He found her quite attractive. She began to draw him out of his shell that he had locked in to. Soon he was telling her things about himself that he had never told anyone before. When she suggested that they live together, it did not take him long to agree.
For a short time life was bearable, little man’s bed-sit was full of love; there was someone to care for, to share life with. But after a few blissful months he was alone again. His partner of four months had left him, taking the Hi Fi, the television set, half the kitchen utensils and his bed. To make matters worse he was behind with the rent, having spent the money on luxuries for his pretend wife.
If he ever needed convincing about being a loser before, his partner’s desertion was the final proof.
The change back to his lifestyle was not difficult. In his heart he knew the happiness could never have lasted. Whatever he tried failed someway or another. The little man had been hopeless at school. He could not make a basic relationship successful and at work he had not had a promotion since he had started with the company. That was ten years ago.
He used to wonder what the girls had in mind when they looked at the little man, but he gave up bothering about it a long time ago. Had he known what they were thinking he might have decided to jump in front of a train month earlier.
The man looked down at the track. The discarded packets and wrappers, countless cigarette butts and other rubbish framed by the gleaming rails stared back at him. Rubbish, that’s what I am, he thought. I belong down there with the rest of it. It won’t be long now. It was 5:13. Just one more minute of misery.
He could see the train in the distance getting bigger every second. People were moving away from the edge of the platform. The little man remained at the edge. Nobody took any notice of him. Just a few more seconds and it would all be over. Should he jump…or fall? He clutched his briefcase; containing only the plastic lunchbox as he decided which way was the best to go. Jump or fall?
The train roared into the station and the little man stepped back, still undecided. Then he boarded the train for the twenty-three and a half minutes of boring journey back to his dreary bed sit.