The Red Line

We’re waiting for the tram, not many of us. I’m watching this man and woman. He’s kind of boxed her in near the shelter.

I look away for a moment and when I look over again he’s moved in closer and she has her back to the wall. You can just about hear some of what’s being said. She takes out three or four folded up twenties gives them to him. She doesn’t want to hand them over and she’s pleading very quietly.

The money isn’t enough. He says something. She has tears in her eyes now and she’s telling him she doesn’t have any more. Next thing is, she’s taking small change out of her pocket and she’s giving it to him. Small change.

I don’t know what is going on. No one else seems to notice. The tram is arriving. I’m waiting to see if he’s going to walk off. If he walks off, it was – what was it, a robbery? But I don’t think he’s going to walk off because something between them says they know each other. They’re not a couple but they know each other somehow.

The doors of the tram are open and I watch as they get in together. They’re in the next carriage down from me. My blood is boiling. I feel ashamed of myself for not stepping in – but who am I? I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just waiting, waiting for something blatant to happen.

The tram is full and he’s standing right up to her by the double doors. It looks like he’s trying to give her a kiss on the cheek. That aggressive way, when the man knows the woman can’t stand him. The tram stops and people get off. She takes her chance and walks over to a seat. But today she’s not lucky. He sits in the seat across from her, and a moment later the seat beside her becomes free, so he moves there. They sit side by side.

Now and again he leans in to her and says something with a little smile, that confident look he has on his face – that look of being in control. And she looks out the window like her skin is crawling, the beginning of tears in her eyes.

“Do you need help?” If she looks across to me I’m going to mouth it.

Look across.

Tram stops again. It’s my stop. What do I do? I get out. This is my stop and I’m going for a haircut.