The carriage jolts and “the next station is Embankment.”
Alan can hear the woman next to him openly weeping. She’d been brewing for a while. He had followed the glance of the man sitting opposite and had surreptitiously looked at her on the pretence of turning to wiggle his phone out of his pocket.
She was puffy-eyed, took short, sharp breaths and, now, hearing her soft cries more loudly he feels panic.
They’re judging him, all the other passengers. They’ve all clocked her suffering, and now they’re sitting there passing sentence on him for not comforting her. He can feel it.
He catches the eye of the young man sitting opposite with a notepad balanced on his knees, and he quakes at the thought of his judgment.
The train is nearly at Embankment but seems to be slowing painfully.
“Come on!” he yells inwardly. “Hurry!”
Finally it grinds to a halt beside the platform and the doors slide open. He slithers through the crowd, shamefaced, certain they are all thinking ill of him, imagining what a poor excuse for a human he is. He makes his way out onto Villiers Street. His eyes and ears are burning with shame, and he wanders without thinking into the doorway of a coffee shop, before taking hold of himself and carrying on to the office.