They sat in silence for nearly two hours, the only sounds the slamming doors in other parts of the police station and the faint hum of the air conditioning.
Simon pondered that it seemed ironic that in the middle of winter the air conditioning was still on and that surely opening a window would have been considerably more cost effective – although perhaps less conducive to the successful detention of criminals.
Occasionally the sound of footsteps could be heard approaching down the corridor, and he would see a pair of highly polished shoes pass attached to black trousers and an unseen body.
The fantasies that he’d previously explored while waiting for the train had often started like this, well perhaps not quite like this, they’d involved him sat next to the beautiful woman from the station, perhaps on a park bench in autumn, or maybe sharing a table in a crowded cafe. In the fantasies he’d strike up conversation, he’d be witty, maybe mention something factual about the weather and link it to an anecdote that portrayed him in an impressive but not arrogant way. It was always so seamless in his dreams, the way he so fluently started conversation, the way their eyes met, the deep brown of hers melting as they stared deep into his soul. At some point they’d kiss, then perhaps he’d suavely suggest dinner, never sex, it was pure, honest, beautiful, if slightly creepy fantasy, and they’d chatter about music, art and the meaning of life. Then the train would approach and he’d be forced to leave that world for another day and concentrate on reality. Perhaps though, he considered, sitting in a police waiting area after witnessing a man’s death wasn’t the best context for lubrication his romantic inner voice.
He ran though opening lines in his head, how could he make that breakthrough, break the ice, take that first step, after all this could be his one and only opportunity to talk to her. In the previous years he’d never even got close – the closest he’d come had been when, arriving five minutes late to the station he’d seen her drop her bag walking just ahead of him, her things had cascaded across the platform dispersing amid the feet of the chilly commuters – he’d taken three steps in her direction to assist with the collection of scattered belongings but had been blocked by a veritable mass of men stooping to help the lady in distress – it seemed he had not been her only admirer – with that in mind it was becoming increasingly clear that while there were clear negatives to witnessing a tragic death there were also perks.
The police officer came out of his office and slowly walked down the hallway. Stopping in front of Simon and the woman, he tapped his foot, alerting them to his slightly rotund figure. The officer carried a weariness from lack of sleep and a considerably stressful morning – he’d be working for the police for over 25 years and in that time, until a few days ago he had, through good fortune of timing and placement, managed to avoid dealing with a great number of dead bodies – two in two days had left him with considerable paperwork. He spoke clearly to the pair of them about “corroborating stories”, “due diligence”, “cleared up quickly”, “unusual” and “free to go”. He’d, of course, spoken more than that, but Simon, distracted by the proximity of, as far as he was concerned, the love of his life, could not focus.
“Do you understand me sir?” the officer asked, staring into Simon’s somewhat distant face. “You’re free to go, best grab a hot drink, take a day of, deal with what you’ve been through.” “What I’ve been through?” Simon stuttered, thrown unceremoniously from the beginnings of yet another daydream into the brutal light of reality. “Seeing a man die like that. Suicide. Makes you think.” the officer continued, “best not to dwell I’d think.”
And with that the officer gave a smile that measured halfway between sympathy and confusion and left the two of them alone again to gather their thoughts.
Silence filled the air again, Simon exhaled deeply, building himself up to say, well, say something, he could hardly just leave without saying hello to this stranger beside him, a stranger who he knew so well yet so little at all. He took a deep breath in and searched for the right combination of wit, charm and poignancy.
“Do you want to grab a coffee?” the woman asked, turning to him.