In a desperate attempt to stay awake, I pulled out my phone and started checking my messages for the millionth time since I got to the station. Unsurprisingly, no one else was up but me. 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 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 finally opened. With a sigh of relief, I hurried over to get a cup of hot coffee. 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.
She was sitting on the bench beside mine. I hadn’t noticed her come 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 coffee. Like me, she had to be waiting for the Intercity Express, since that was the only train expected at this time. It was not a large station with many platforms. The absence of any luggage suggested that she was here to receive someone, just like me. I would put her age to be in the early thirties, though it was impossible to be sure. I stole another glance at her. Her gaze was fixed on something far away. Following her eyes, I realized she was just gazing at the horizon, her mind lost in thought. Her eyes were quite pretty and I found it hard to look away. However, not wanting to get caught staring again, I turned away and closed my eyes, spending the rest of the coffee thinking about her eyes.
My thoughts were rudely interrupted by the blast of the train’s whistle. Finishing off the coffee, I got up and walked towards the approaching train, expertly throwing the cup into the faraway bin. The brakes screamed as the train screeched to a halt at the platform. I started hurrying 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 approached 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 for me. Pushing myself through the crowd,I called out to him. Whipping around, he flashed a quick smile and started making his way towards me. Chucking one of the bags at me, he launched into a tirade of complaints about everything wrong with the railway system. I smiled and nodded along as we made our way out, through the dispersing crowd. I couldn’t help looking back at her and I saw her still searching the crowd.
As we reached the exit, the train was already slowly pulling out of the station. Raj was now going on about the food that he was sure was gonna cause food poisoning, the fans that had to be prodded every now and then, and the sleepless night of battling mosquitoes, and I kept nodding absentmindedly, my thoughts elsewhere. As we stepped out the gate, I looked back one last time. She stood there on the platform, that was nearly empty now. I finally understood the look in her eyes, the sadness and the hurt, as they kept searching.