I don’t think that anyone ever likes people to sit on the seat next to them on public transport when there are other seats available. It leaves us uncomfortable and lets our preconceptions run wild.
I pulled my bag into my chest as the man got on the tube. I pulled my sleeping girlfriend in a little closer. I positioned my leg so that my body language said no but still, he chose the seat next to us.
His hand was bandaged, his coat was dirty and he was clearly a few days from the shower.
He pulled a phone out of his pocket, an old Nokia, and began to play a game. His head twitched and his breathing got louder as he moved his helicopter up and down trying to dodge the pixelated obstacles on the screen.
It was at night and we were on an unfamiliar part of the tube system. I wasn’t aware of any hospitals near where we were and so I sat anxiously examining his bandage as he played his game and my girlfriend slept.
I was prepared for all eventualities from him pulling a needle out of his pocket, to him having a knife.
Then he put his phone in his pocket and got off at New Cross Gate.
Horrified at myself for refusing to consider that he may just have been a lonely man, down on his luck, I silently wept for what I wasn’t aware that I had already lost.