Thursday, October 04, 2012

The right stranger

I've been doing a lot of train travelling recently and as I sat on the train last night I thought how nice it would be to talk to someone. But instead, opposite me was a huge man who ate noisily and largely (each movement of his mouth, every gesture towards his crisps or drink, was large) and who left crumbs down his shirt and tie and all his rubbish on the seat. Next to me was a woman who was engrossed in telephone calls. The other seat of the four was occupied by Mr Large's detritus.

I would have liked to chat to someone, as I often do. Sometimes talking to a stranger can be the right thing when you have something on your mind. As I sat and pondered these things, wishing I could snooze but unable as one window of the train was faulty and a howling chill breeze kept everyone wiggling in their seats, I remembered an encounter from many years ago.

Pregnant and awaiting the arrival of my daughter, I was in the park with my son, who was only two. It was a brisk, chilly day, but bright and the playground that Alex was enjoying was fairly empty. There was one other woman there, and I can't remember if she had a child with her or not. We got chatting, as women do.

After a very brief time she told me of an extremely distressing personal experience relating to childbirth, and the trauma and difficulties she'd had dealing with it. She also told me that she'd never told anyone this before. So why me? I don't know -sometimes it really is easy to tell the hardest things to a complete stranger. I never saw her again, but I hope that a listening ear was helpful. I hope I was the right stranger.

Photo credits:, Ajax46 (Flickr).
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