Tweet I’m sure I know the guy opposite me on the train. Only problem is, I can't remember how or why.
I pretend to read my book, but I sneak a look over the top of the pages. He has straight hair the colour of wet sand – straight except for the random kink just behind his right ear. He looks to be in his late twenties, but the cluster of spots around his mouth make him look like a gawky teenager. He fiddles with his phone, sliding his finger across the screen with merry abandon.
Ah! Matt! That’s his name. I met him on Match.com, and we had our first date in a cramped basement bar in Soho. He started every sentence with "So, like, yeah" and didn’t buy me a single drink all night. He regaled me with tales of his exploits in information distribution. It turned out he was a postman. There wasn’t a second date.
He looks up and out of the window, his attention caught by a woman pirouetting on a roof terrace above the railway line. I kick myself – he isn’t Matt. No, I recognise that slightly creepy half-smile as he watches the bikini-clad ballerina. It’s Peter, the guy who used to live downstairs when I had the flat in Putney with the leaky bathroom ceiling. He tried to flirt with me whenever he saw me on the stairs.
I wriggle down in my seat hoping he doesn’t look my way. He turns away from the window and starts rifling through his bag. I risk another look at him and I realise he’s not Peter at all. Peter would never carry a messenger bag anywhere. I’m sure I’ve seen that bag before, and then I remember where – on Brighton beach, just after I got hit in the face by a stray Frisbee. Ah yes, this guy must be Colt, the American boy who couldn’t apologise enough for his bad throw. We spent a glorious afternoon on the pier, and he gave me his number. I got mugged that night, and lost my phone.
Before I can say hi and apologise for never getting in touch, the man stands up. He slings the bag over his shoulder and walks down the carriage towards the doors. As he gets off the train, I realise it is not Colt. In fact, I never knew him at all.
A woman gets onto the train and throws herself into the seat opposite. She prods icons on her smartphone, and curses when the wrong app pops up. That smudged red lipstick and crooked black eyeliner looks so familiar. I’m sure I know her. She looks an awful lot like Denise, the woman who used to cut my hair in Crouch End. There again, she could be Natalya, the girl I shared a flat with throughout university. Wow, time has not been kind to her if she is.
She looks up at me. It takes me a few moments to realise she’s actually looking through me. I finally remember, as if I can ever really forget, but being dead can screw with your sense of perspective on things.
The train lurches out of the station and I turn away from the window. I don’t need to see where I died again. I sigh, and the woman opposite shudders. Goosebumps prickle along her bare forearm. I sigh again out of sheer devilment, and she stares at my empty seat. I muster up the energy to glare. She might think it’s bad to be haunted, but just you try being dead and haunted by your memories. I’ve got a whole lifetime of them – and an eternity in which to replay them.