As I sat on the train home tonight, I became conscious of the fact that a woman was staring at me.
She was sitting a few rows further down the carriage, after the middle break where the seats faced the opposite way, towards mine. When I spotted her, she didn’t even react – just continued to stare at me with a curious, almost frowning expression on her face. The longer it went on, the more pissed off I became.
It had been a long day thanks to a fabulous Friday night that involved a leisurely dinner, speaking French, mojitos, speaking Korean, laughter, speaking a weird sort of Kofranglais, and a spontaneous violin-and-vodka-accompanied singsong. All most enjoyable at the time (which was about 4am, in the end), but regrettable from the second I woke up and discovered a group of workmen using jackhammers in my head. Not only had I run out of drinking water to ease the trauma (and the shop down the street might as well have been 500 miles away, for all the chance there was of me dragging myself down to get some), but approximately halfway through my hangover I had to get up and go on a train journey to watch one of my best friends starring in a play in another city. This was something I’d been looking forward to, of course, but the getting there was Not Fun At All, given the major reconstruction work that was apparently underway inside my skull. I also managed to have a mild but upsetting skirmish with a friend via text message in the midst of all this, and dropped my subway card in a puddle of what I can only hope was spilled beer.
So there I was on the train, anyway, having survived the day but still feeling fragile enough to be longing for my bed. And this bitch was staring at me for no apparent reason. It’s the sort of thing I’d usually try to ignore, but with my nerves on edge and my head imploding, this tactic was rather more difficult. I sat there, trying to match her stare, but she didn’t back down, and I became more and more irritated.
Then I realised that a man a few rows behind her was also staring at me. This was getting to be beyond a joke! And, to my horror, as the train whooshed its way homeward, I became aware of more and more starers. They were everywhere. Gazing at me. Sometimes frowning, sometimes sniggering, sometimes just staring curiously and intently. WTF??! I had to resist a very strong urge to leap up on my seat and shout out the words to a particularly aggressive and insulting Korean baseball chant I happen to know. What a load of rude, insensitive, cruel, nasty idiots. I spent the journey getting increasingly freaked out and maddened, until at last, to my relief, Daejeon Station was announced as the next stop.
I stood up to head for the door, glaring angrily at all the freaks who had tormented me so. And that, of course, is when I realised that there had been a TV screen right above my head the whole time.