In a desperate attempt to stay awake, I pulled out my phone and started checking my mail for the millionth time since I got to the station. The dawn was just breaking and the dusty old platform slowly lit up in golden light. Shivering from the cold, I stuffed my phone back into my pocket and looked around. The platform was nearly empty except for a few stray dogs fast asleep and the odd vagabond or two. The cold was eating through my jacket and I glanced impatiently at my watch. After several minutes of fidgeting in my seat, I noticed that the tea stall had opened. Sighing with relief, I hurried over to get a cup of hot tea. Clutching the cup in one hand, I managed to wiggle out my wallet from my back pocket and pay the vendor. It was on my way back that I first noticed her.
I was taken aback by her sudden appearance. She was sitting on the bench beside mine. I hadn’t noticed her coming in, even though I had been gone for a scanty few minutes. She looked at me curiously, noticing my stare. I politely looked away and sat down on my bench and gently sipped the tea. A thousand questions instantly sprang up in my mind. Like me, she had to be waiting for the Intercity Express, since no others trains stopped at this station at this time. The abscence of any luggage suggested she was here to receive someone, much like me. I would put her age to be in the thirties though it was impossible to be sure. I stole another glance at her as I sipped my tea. Her gaze was fixed on something far away. Following her eyes, I realized she was just gazing at the horizon, her mind lost in thoughts. Something in her eyes vaguely unsettled me. Not wanting to get caught staring again, I turned away and closed my eyes, spending the rest of the tea wondering about her eyes.
My thoughts were rudely interrupted by the blast of the train’s whistle. Finishing off the tea, I got up and walked towards the approaching train. The brakes screamed as the train screeched to a halt at the platform. I hurried down the length of the train, my eyes scanning for Raj. In a while, I noticed his familar form struggling with a pair of bags. As I hurried towards him, I couldn’t help casting a quick glance backwards. She was standing now, scanning the faces that had alighted. She looked taller than I had judged her to be. Turning back, I realized that Raj hadn’t seen me yet and was looking around in confusion. Pushing myself through the human multitude, I called out to him. Whipping around, he gave a gasp of relief and promptly made his way towards me. Without further ado, he threw one of the bags at me and launched into a tirade of complaints about everything wrong with the railway system. I smiled and nodded along as we made our way through the crowd. I saw her still looking, her eyes searching the crowd.
As we reached the exit, the engines roared up and the train slowly started pulling out of the station. Raj kept on grumbling about the food that tasted horrible, the fans that didn’t work, the sleepless night of battling mosquitoes, and I kept nodding absent mindedly, my thoughts elsewhere. As we stepped out the gate, I looked back, one last time. There she stood, on the platform that was nearly empty now. In her eyes, I could see it now. I could finally understand the sadness and the hurt as they kept searching.