Her eyelids were so heavy, she could barely keep them open. She stood at the entrance of the tube car grasping the pole tight with her boney hands, her brittle skin stretching over the clasping fist. A little more and it could just split. Her feet were unsteady while she stood, her feather weight too much to carry. She was clearly no drunk, just very sick, and travelling the tube. All her possessions were in the bag strung on her shoulders, a mammoth task for this feeble body, nearly buckling under the strain of it. She must have been about 60, she looked like 80. Nameless and faceless. A nice clear vacant radius of space was maintained, distancing her from the others. The people.
Peak rush hour at 8:00 in the morning, yet this space must be spared. Her lips kept twitching, sometimes curling up, forming a nauseous expression. The radius grew. She took her time getting off the car when the tube halted at the next station. The vacant space started filling up instantaneously. I waited till she was safely off before I alighted. She startled, eyes suddenly wide and alert when I touched her shoulder. Our eyes locked for a moment before I asked her if she was okay, if she needed any help. For a fleeting moment there, she actually looked fine. 20 years younger. Her face lit up, her nauseously curled lips straightened out into a smile. Just for a moment, before her eyes welled up with tears. The hospital was just around the corner, that's where she was headed. They were expecting her, they would take care of her she assured me, between profuse expressions of gratitude. Gratitude for what? For seeing her? For touching her?
Embarrassed and ashamed, I watched her totter on. Diminishing. No ones's sister, no one's mother, no one's daughter, no one's friend, no one's nothing. Air.