On a packed London train from Kentish Town to Peckham on a nippy Monday evening, I watched two young women take their seats in front of me. They didn’t know each other. One was wearing a Barbour scarf that matched her business casual office outfit and the other wore a t-shirt and jeans and a jacket that seemed a little too big. Serious faces. It must have been a long day.
The train pulled forward as they took out their smart phones. It was one of those train carriers where the seats are facing each other. Makes for a nice chance to mingle, if you’re so inclined. But on Monday evenings in Londontown, most people are not so inclined.
So I kept reading my book with one eye, while observing my two neighbors with the other. I wondered what went through young Barbour lady’s mind as she glanced over her seatmate’s shoulder and read the texting conversation that appeared to be taking place on the phone that wasn’t hers. I also wondered what t-shirt woman was wanting to say with her eyes when she gave a short and silent stare back to Ms. Barbour, as she adjusted herself in her seat a minute later.
And then we sat there for the next half hour, all three of us, in such close proximity. No words. No smiles. Just three strangers sharing a strange space.
We people can be so good at huddling together, while remaining apart.
We stand on a train and look at the floor and pretend we don’t notice our neighbors, when in reality we are all very conscious of each other’s presence. We work hard to keep our so-called cool and make it seem like we have it all figured out. We pass one another on the street as if we couldn’t care less. As if we need nothing and no one and can’t be bothered to acknowledge the people around us.
Honestly though, none of us has it all figured out. You don’t and I sure don’t either. We all have our moments of loneliness, self-doubt, anxiety, embarrassment, frustration, and sadness, and we were all born naked. Not one of us wants to be rejected and we all need support and connection to thrive.
In the grand scheme of things, all we have is each other.