stories

I miss train snacks

left: original artwork, right: the tea towel itself (creased, stained and used)
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A year without commuting. A year without those precious solitary hours spent staring out of slimy windows, brushing crumbs off my lap.

I miss train snacks. I miss the ritual of clutching a coffee on a train, bag squeezed between my feet on the speckled Lino floor, having spent my time in the Pret queue pretending to wonder what to order when I know I’m going to get the same thing I always get, in the same reusable cup which is simultaneously saving the world by not being single-use and also poisoning me by being made with carcinogenic materials, depending on which online review you read. I bought it on Amazon so that cancels out the good intentions anyway. I miss choosing a treat for a journey whatever time of day, whatever the proximity to a meal.

Train journeys of any length require sustenance. A crumbly or flaky or too-messy-to-really-eat-in-front-of-strangers bagged up picnic. Something you’d never make for yourself or buy for Proper Lunch. Overly toasted bagels, buttered whilst still hot, even though I hate melted butter on toasted things. Butter needs to be seen and licked and should announce itself, not be absorbed. There to decorate, not infuse.

I miss expertly folding the cardboard wrapper of an M&S egg and cress sandwich up into a tiny enough triangle that I can pop it in my coat pocket before we even pull away from the platform, so I can spend the rest of the journey pretending the whole secret sordid mess never happened.

I miss picking at slightly questionable sushi with splintered single-use chopsticks in non-recyclable plastic containers, leaving piles of unused packets of wasabi paste clinging onto the corners of various tables along Great Portland Street.

I miss flimsy film lids that don’t peel back without splitting, and using tiny little sporks, and never being able to find a bin. I miss nodding when asked if I’d like a napkin popped in a white paper bag whilst knowing it’ll never fulfil its destiny as I wipe last bits of powdery evidence of an almond croissant from the corner of my mouth onto the cuff of my cardigan, knowing it’ll get splashed clean when I forget to roll my sleeves up the next time I wash my hands.

I miss meeting you at the station after not seeing you all day, your face both embarrassed and triumphant as you reveal a steamy bag of Burger King from behind your back, ready for you to scoff it like you haven’t eaten all day on the last train home, me rolling my eyes in performative disgust whilst discreetly freeing the last morsels of office birthday flapjack from the grooves in my back teeth.