I can remember almost every minute detail of those fifteen minutes. I may well remember them for the rest of my life – why? Because I let those fifteen minutes go all too easily.
It was the train from Weymouth to London Waterloo; Southwest Trains… chunkety chunk, chunkety chunk, chunkety chunk… the motion of the carriage lulled me into daydreams. I can even remember what I was daydreaming about: the boy I was courting with. I had got on the train at Bournemouth and was heading home from meeting his mother for the first time. We had known each other for a couple of months and had been “official” for a couple of weeks. I hated that term, official, and I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know what it meant to be unofficial either, but I knew that they were words that people used to validate your existence as a couple.
Staring out of the window, I watched the jade-coloured fields sliding past, occasionally capturing glimpses of strangers walking their dogs or children riding bikes. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was warm. I remember thinking how wonderful it was to know that those people were alive, even if they only existed in my world for a few seconds. Life is just one long series of intersections between worlds: you see a stranger and they become a part of your life for those moments that you register them there, but just as quickly as they appear then they are gone. You forget them; they exist no longer – or at least they exist no longer in your world. But they were definitely there, flesh and bones, mind and soul. They were people with hearts and passions and pains. Life is one long series of intersections between souls; sometimes you capture those souls in your world for a while, but most of the time they are just passing through and then they disappear into the darkness again.
I was daydreaming about the boy I was courting with. He was worth thinking about. I can’t quite picture the station that we had pulled into when the man got onto the train – I was too engrossed in my imaginings. I turned when I felt the space next to me fill up. He was tall, I know that. He had golden curls, not too long but enough to tickle his earlobes. He had fresh skin and he wore shorts and an orange t-shirt. He carried a rucksack. He had a presence, though I couldn’t say why. Those fifteen minutes seemed like a lifetime.
His name was Adrian, though His friends called him ‘Adey’. He was studying landscaping at Southampton Solent university and he was in his twenties. He hadn’t hesitated in introducing himself to me. He asked about the tattoo on my wrist – “Why does it say ‘Faith’? Are you religious?” I told him yes I was religious and that I got my tattoo to remind me to keep my faith, even in the hardest of times. He asked me if he thought my faith got me through the hard times and I said yes. He told me faith hadn’t worked for him. Adrian had been religious once; he had had faith, but it had let him down. He had suffered in the past and it had made him see that there was no such thing as God.
I disagreed. Surely if he was still here, if he had suffered and yet was able to sit there and tell me about it, it was proof that there is a God, because it meant that God had carried him through… He nodded. We shared a moment. I knew he saw my point of view, though he didn’t necessarily agree with it. I saw what he meant when he said that the hard times has dissuaded him from his faith, but I wasn’t inclined to give up on my own.
He asked me if I was seeing anybody. I have to admit that for a split second I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t, but I told the truth and told him about the boy I was courting with. He listened. He told me he was glad that I was happy. He told me that he had not been quite so lucky – he had never quite clicked with anybody like that. I told him he would, he just needed to be patient and wait for the right girl.
We shared a moment.
We talked about things that didn’t hold any great importance to either of us, but at the same time we opened up to one another and admitted that we were both pretty afraid of life. Death does not scare us, but living…? Living is the scariest thing of all.
I cannot remember the train. I cannot remember the jade-coloured fields sliding past us. I cannot remember being there or being awake or being alive. I remember being naked, floating in between time and space, and feeling nothing. Fifteen minutes were a lifetime in between two worlds as they collided.
Southampton Central; the station where he got off the train. He stood up, tossing his rucksack over his shoulder and looking me straight in the eye. I was curled up in my seat, watching him. He took a deep breath and told me that I was beautiful and that he enjoyed talking to me. “Thank you” I had said; I had told him “good luck with future clicking”.
We shared a moment.
He had left the train and me and the space between the worlds collapsed. As quickly as he had appeared in my life, he had disappeared. He had got off the train and vanished among the crowd – I hadn’t even been able to spot him amongst the other passengers on the platform. Was he real? Was he there?
I don’t know who he was, I just know that he was there for those fifteen minutes. He had been there and he had existed in my world for more than a few seconds, but I had let him walk away without telling him that those moments had mattered.
I had let those fifteen minutes go.
I wasn’t in love. It wasn’t something that changed my mind about the boy I was courting with. I spent many happy years with that boy and I do not regret it – even though that boy I had been courting is now a man, and I am no longer seeing him; our world collapsed; we were not meant to be. I was not in love with Adrian, but I remember him. There was something that I shouldn’t have let go of; even if we had never been lovers he might have been somebody who changed my world. He has changed my world, though I never told him those moments mattered.
I don’t know where Adrian is now; it has been four years since those fifteen minutes passed me by. I have looked for him; the internet is a wonderful tool for that. But I never even got a second name – I didn’t think to ask him for it. I scold myself. Because I didn’t ask him for a second name then I have never been able to find him with it and I do not think that I ever will. I wish I could run into him once more, even if it is only for five minutes this time. I want to tell him that I remember him. I want to know he is still there, flesh and bones and mind and soul, with a heart and with passions and with pains.
I cannot tell you why I want to find him. I cannot tell you why I want to know he is still there. I cannot tell you why something in me needs to know he is still there. I can only tell you that I will never find him, though I will always be looking. It is a shame.