Amruta Prabhu

Metro short 3 

I rush through the serpentine corridors of the metro to get to line 4 in time to catch the last train home. It’s late and I’ve had a few drinks, so I’m overly defensive, keeping my head down, my bag close to my chest and a brisk gait going. Other stragglers come at me lazily in groups, giggling with the idiocy of alcoholic excesses. In the distance, I spot a girl, dressed from head to toe in black. She’s the only other person walking alone, so I reflexively start following her, as if by aligning our individual solitariness we could somehow put up a common barrier to the unknown dangers lurking out there.

It’s the wine that’s making me paranoid of course, and so it is that when the girl starts running I start running too. The corridor is long and winding and by the time I (we) reach the platform, I’m out of breath. I sink into the chair next to her. The latest dance tracks are pulsating in my ears, but the girl is fidgeting next to me, and my attention is drawn from the music to her. She’s adjusting her skirt nervously, pushing her hair away from her face and retouching her scarlet lips all at once. Suddenly, she lifts her head and looks right at me. The fragile beauty of her face hits me full-blast. Her large, lost eyes are reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s Daisy, precariously on the verge of tears. The effect is heightened by her dark eye-shadow and red red lips, by the slit in her loose diaphanous skirt.

I realize she’s mouthing something, so I pull the earphones out of my ears. “I’m worried,” she says, “there’s no indicator for the next train, do you think we’ve missed the last one or is there still hope…?” “No, that can’t be,” I say, looking at the time, “I mean there has to be one more train. I don’t know how I would get home otherwise.” “Yeah, I hope so too,” she replies “besides, there wouldn’t be all these people waiting on the platform otherwise.” She lets a nervous smile curl on one side of her mouth, and I smile sheepishly in return. In that moment she and I are the same person, bound together by our common circumstances.

The train comes rolling in, and she springs to her feet, hurrying to the door and turning quickly to say “Thanks, have a nice evening” before going on her way. I get into the metro through the door before her. I switch the music on again, but my eyes stay riveted onto her, now sitting a few feet in front of me, vigorously applying bright pink blush onto her cheeks and retouching her red lips for the nth time. Wine glasses tinkle and break in my mind’s soundscape; her twitching, insouciant self seems right out of the jazz age. “Who is she making herself up for,” I wonder “at this time of the night?” I’m fascinated by her, endlessly curious about this life that, for an instant, intertwined with mine.

The train pulls into my stop, and as I step out, our parenthetic kinship comes to a close.

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Amruta Prabhu was born and raised in Mumbai, India, by a family that encouraged a love of travel and of words. This passion for experiencing different cultures and languages led her to study English literature and Professional Translation. Currently based in Paris, she is a polyglot and translator. Drawing equally from both her Indian culture and love for Europe, her inspiration comes from the details of everyday life and her writing aims at undiluted, honest expression. When not writing, Amruta enjoys photography, tap and Bollywood dancing, eating, laughing, sleeping, music and drinking chai.