The End of Happiness

 A couple on the train:

“What do you make of him there”, she whispered, nodding slightly.

“Who?”

“Shh!”, she hissed. “Him in the green jacket, standing there reading. Don’t stare.”

He glanced up quickly and saw a grey-bearded, bald man with round glasses standing by the door reading, one hand in the pocket of his green jacket.

“What about him?”

“See what he’s reading – The End of Happiness. Bit depressing.”

“D’ you think he’s unhappy then?”

“How should I know. Most old people look unhappy.”

“Think so?”

“At work it’s always the older one’s complaining.”

She moved closer, leaning into his body. “You’re not like that though, well most of the time.”

“Wait till I get to his age”, he said pulling a face, “when I’m sixty four!”

“But I’ll still love you. And make you happy.”

“But The End of Happiness. Wonder what it’s about?”

“Probably the usual, woman ran off and left him broke and lonely.”

“Cynical, that’s what you are” she said, punching him lightly in the midriff. “I think she left because there was no happiness left in their lives.”

“You mean they used it all up until there was none left?”

“No, not really, but why carry on when it’s over?”

“Look, look”, he whispered, “he’s smiling to himself. Maybe he is glad it ended”.

“What, happiness?”

“No, their life together, remember you said his woman had run off. Maybe to someone else who still had some happiness left over.”

“Would you run off if you weren’t happy with me anymore?”

“Of course”, she said.

He pretended to be offended by her teasing.

“You know, I’ve seen him before, always standing and reading. Never sits down.”

“So what, maybe he likes standing. Growing good, my gran always said.”

“C’mon, we can stand too. I want to get closer.”

“You mad? What’s this all about? Fancy him do you?”

“Nooo! But there’s something about him.”

“Calm down, he’s getting off. Sometimes I just don’t get you.”

 

A man in a green jacket:

 It had been a distinctly unpleasant journey. I felt their eyes on me as soon as they sat down, burning through my book like sun rays through a magnifying glass. Or rather her eyes; bold and staring, as though trying to reach into my soul. I read the same line over and over, thoughts wandering. Sensing her staring at me, I suddenly looked up. She turned away quickly, moving closer to the man, guilty mouth gaping. Whispering furtively but getting little response. My eyes lingered on the couple for a moment or two, then returned to the familiar lines in the book. The train screeched to a halt and, turning away, I felt the muscles in my face relax. I could finally escape.

 

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