1. Evening Train

I BUMPED INTO R again in the train on my way home from work. After half a lifetime of not even thinking of R, of freedom from R, our eyes met in the carriage. The distance between us was slight - had the carriage been empty, we could have reached out to one another from where we both stood. Thankfully the carriage was full, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. I must admit, had I seen him in the street I would not even have said hello, in fact I would have crossed the street, but in these circumstances there seemed to be no avoiding it. Perhaps, I thought, I could pretend to be someone else. I was astonished at the wave of instant panic that came over me.

Our eyes had met only for an instant, barely longer than any pair of eyes meeting any other pair of eyes in the subway. He had seen me see him, he had seen me look at him rather than look over him as one usually does in the subway, which at peak hour is a thicket of gazes avoiding each other. If he had not recognised me - I had, after all, gained weight, lost my hair, grown a beard to compensate for the loss of hair, in short I had grown old, whereas R had barely changed - he had at least seen me see him, only to look away immediately.

What was he doing here, half a world, half a lifetime away? The train carriage was so full it was hard to move. My mind was awash with thoughts of escape. Had I been able I might have waited for him to alight, followed him home, noted his address, planned my revenge. Instead it was I who alighted, at the next stop, which wasn't my stop, and not only that, I exited the train station, head bowed, not looking up as the train lurched onward, focused on appearing normal, and I walked down an unknown street amongst a throng of commuters spreading homeward in the gloom, and I heard no footsteps following me, I sensed no impending presence, and I was just considering turning around to continue my commute home when I felt an arm on my shoulder and a familiar voice booming behind me, and my heart practically somersaulted as I turned around to see R beaming at me with bonhomie - genuine or feigned, I still can't tell - calling me by someone else's name, and I bleated, I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong person, trying to keep my facial muscles under control, trying to stop them from trembling, I guess (I have no idea if I pulled it off), and R's bonhomie suddenly evaporated. He grunted - yes, grunted - and mumbled a narrow-eyed apology, as if he couldn't believed he'd been mistaken, and walked on ahead, and I stood, fixed to the spot, the sting of his slap still on my back, unable to follow him, though I yearned to, yearned to discover who he had become, and where he lived, and what I could do to destroy him, just as he had destroyed others, destroyed me.

To this day I have no idea if R was truly mistaken, if he was merely confirming a hunch, or if he knew exactly who I was and was letting me know it. I shuffled meekly back to the train station, engulfed in succeeding waves of fear and self-loathing. I spent the rest of the evening taking train after train, just in case, I thought, just in case I am being followed, and it was only very late when I got to my apartment and found my dear old cat peeved with hunger.