She came running into the train just as the doors closed, every accessory on her body jiggling with the effort she made to make it just in time. She succeeded. She stood there close to the door, turned away from me. She was wearing brown, low-waist jeans deliberately cut and torn in several places. The tanned skin at the on her hip was interrupted by an oriental tattoo, the bottom half of which I couldn’t see since it disappeared into her low slung trousers. She wore them tight. She was slim and athletic. A black tank covered her back, but left little to the imagination. Silky, bright red hair, obviously artificially coloured and heavily conditioned, cascaded down onto her naked shoulders.
To me, a first time visitor to the westernized world, this cultural contrast to what I was used to in India was an outlandish experience. I was taking in every moment of it.
She was talking loudly to her friend sitting on the seat next to the door. I caught ‘Zoe’ among the several four letter words that peppered their conversation, and it seemed to me that that was her name. From my angle I could only the tip of her nose, the rest of her face being hidden by her hair. I figured she must be in her early twenties.
A man who was sitting next to her friend got up and stood close to the door to get down at the next stop and she moved to take his place. Her blank tank top had ‘BITE ME!’ written on it in big bold pink alphabets. I looked up at her face and it was in mid grimace. Large eyes heavily lined with kohl were immersed in a sea of blue eye shadow. Dark lipstick framed her lips. The ferocious yelp that she uttered then hit me. A strand of her hair was caught between the pneumatic doors probably because of her last minute entry. She swore loudly as she noticed this and every one awake in the compartment of the train stopped mid-conversation and stared at her. She tried pulling her hair free, but in vain. Her head positioned at a strange angle because of her constraint, she searched her purse, dug out a large pair of scissors, and chopped the trapped hair off.
She then turned around and looked squarely at me. I was conscious everybody in the compartment staring at us. “What are you looking at?” she barked, giving me a look that made me cringe. It was then that I noticed that her features were a little too soft, and a little too innocent. Up close and personal, she looked very young. It slowly occurred to me that she couldn’t have been more than thirteen.
“Fuck off!” she screamed at me. But I couldn’t look at her. There I was, all of eighteen, completely terrified by the encounter with a kid and its possible ramifications. I looked at her hair, previously stuck in the door, but now drifting away into the labyrinths of the London Underground because the pneumatic doors had opened and the train had reached the next station.
It wasn’t my stop, but I took my bag, and bolted.