Valentine’s Day

I was travelling on the metro when I saw this woman. The trip was long, long enough to imagine her story.

There is an audio version at the end of the page.

A slightly sad looking young woman sits on a seat on the Bucharest metro, looking downwards. Contemplative look. Has a handbag on her lap and a bottle of water in her right hand.

She was travelling home alone. There had been an argument and he’d refused to come. It wasn’t the first time that he had acted so. Because she had smiled a moment too long at a waiter, agreed with the ‘wrong’ person in the conversation, dared to ask a stranger directions rather than trust he knew where he was going. Or today, because she had talked too long with another student after the lecture.

By now he should have been sending messages, apologising, explaining he loved her really, sometimes he’s just so jealous that he can’t help himself. There were always messages. Calls. Usually it was right after, often late night after he had been drinking. She needed to be alert to these, it was worse if she failed to reply immediately.

But there were no messages. But there was no ping, no vibration. Was it the lack of signal between stations or this was it? He’d actually meant what he’d said. He was gone?

As Sudului became Brancoveanu, past Eroii Revolutiei, the longer stretch to Tineretului, she began wonder. How many times would she be sat on an underground train, standing at a bus stop, alone in apartment, waiting for him to calm down? Was she to spend the rest of her life sitting alone at café tables refreshing apps in case now was the time? Should she be feeding herself coffee at all times of night because he would call and she must answer?

She wanted love. She loved feeling loved. He was only like this as he was so devoted to her. Wasn’t he?

Piata Unirii came by. They had once spent a summer evening walking round the fountains. He had looked so handsome that day, had told her how he planned to be with her forever. But then, in act of what she thought was playful love, she had pushed him a under a stream of water, it had hardly touched him, yet he raged.

The train rolled on to Universitatii, where they had first met at the university, she’d bought the last sandwich from the kiosk, and to save the vendor from his verbal assault, she agreed to let him have it.

To Romana. They’d eaten strawberries in the café garden, bought a book of Edwin Morgan poems. He said the seller had only included a bookmark – a bookmark! – cause he wanted her.

She opened her bag, fumbled for her phone. There it was, fallen to the bottom again. She took it out. Placed it on the seat next to her. Stood up. Her stop. Victoriei.

Valentine’s Day audio


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