Burwood Station and mission accomplished. (Photo: CitySider/Flickr)

“Doors closing. Please stand clear,” said the recorded message.

And just like that, the doors rolled shut. With a creak and a couple of muffled clunks, the city bound train began edging forward as it pulled out of Strathfield Station, past the old Whelan’s Hotel and the relatively new TAFE college, which, as always, was advertising new enrolments. Some things don’t change. Like the whistling noise the train made as it started to pick up speed.

It was late on a Sunday afternoon – almost late enough to be considered evening – and the sky was heavy with dark grey clouds that looked ready to burst any minute. Even though there was still a week of summer left, a cool breeze fluttered through the window beneath the sunless sky. It was almost jumper weather. Almost but not quite.

The downstairs compartment in the old, silver carriage was a mess. Sloppy graffiti, sribbled stubbornly in permanent ink, traced its way across the walls and a crumpled copy of the Sunday Telegraph sat abandoned on an otherwise empty, backwards-facing seat. The blue, vinyl covering that had been stretched across the seat back was showing its age. Cracks had down one side and the seam along the top edge was starting to come apart at one of the corners. An almost-empty water bottle rolled around on the floor, sloshing back and forth with each change of momentum.

I stared out the window and fiddled with my MP3 player. The screen had fuzzed up, the random setting had stopped working and the machine was stuck on Dallas Crane. But it just wasn’t a Dallas Crane kind of afternoon. I poked at the buttons and poked again but it didn’t make a difference.

The song: Under the moon.

We’re all going to a party under the moon tonight
We’re gonna wake up anybody not outside
singing Auld Lang Syne…”

I sighed and gave up.

Spread out on a two-person seat, a few rows in front, sat a restless teenager who stared out the window, fidgeting. His behaviour matched how I felt. The only other people sitting down below were a group of three friends, sitting up the other end of the carriage, caught up in their conversation.

Next song: Wannabe.

You roll in the dirt of your gloss magazines Then you clean off the filth with the soap on TV”

As always, the pun made me smile.

Sitting there grinning to myself, something caught my attention. The kid from a few rows in front of me had stood up and was now crouching in the middle of the aisle, looking at the floor. He turned his head in one direction, then another, and another again, focusing all his attention on the search. The beginnings of panic were etched across his face.

The other three passengers continued with their conversation, without looking up, but I couldn’t help but stare. I wanted to do something yet at the same time, I didn’t want to interfere. So I watched and waited. The teen kept looking. Under the seat. Under seats behind and in front. Down the aisle. Under the seats on the other side of the aisle. He looked worried. Almost frantic.

“Um…what are you looking for?” I finally asked.

The teen looked up, showing his scrunched up face. “My ring. It fell off.” He returned his gaze to the floor of the.

“OK. I’ll have a look too.”

Like the worried teen, I stepped into the aisle without stopping to ask for a description and bent over, glueing my eyes to the floor. I searched the area where I had been sitting but saw nothing, apart from another plastic drink bottle and a torn page from the newspaper. The teen kept looking though, and his desperation spurred me on.

I walked to the end of the carriage and bent over one more time. Nothing. I shifted the newspaper. Still nothing. Stepping back to return to my seat, a glint of reflected light caught my eye. I moved closer and saw what looked like a chunky, silver ring lying on the floor at least five metres from where the teen had been sitting. I picked it up.

“Hey, is this it?”

The teen looked up and walked towards me. As he got closer, the worry lines disappeared from his face and he began to smile.

“Yes…yeeeeeeees. Thank you!”

“No worries. I’m glad we found it,” I said, smiling back.

The train slowed down on its approach to Burwood Station. The teen looked up again and said: “That was just in time. This is my stop. Thank you so much.”

“No worries,” I repeated. “…have a great afternoon!”

The teen walked up the stairs, the doors opened and I heard him step out onto the platform.

“Doors closing. Please stand clear,” said the recorded message.

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