It’s late. The world outside has long since turned to darkness. The station is empty; only the echo of distant footsteps and the constant blare of the tannoy give it any sense of life. The doors of the train open and I step inside, making myself comfortable for the two hour journey, turning the space available into my world: enclosing myself away from the rest of the train as I plug in my headphones and listen to the podcast on my phone.
The train is busier than I expected it to be: each person settling in to position in their own way: one is reading the free newspaper from the station, another watches downloaded content on their tablet whilst a third stretches himself over his bag and sinks slowly into sleep.
A few stops down a young couple enter the train and sit opposite me.; their legs intertwining, arms resting on each other’s arms, heads naturally leaning in towards each other. They talk in low tones as he pulls a receipt from his pocket and draws a grid of dots: ten by ten, resting the paper on her knee. Taking it in turns to pass the pen they draw line after line, trying not to give the other a chance to draw a box. They are totally lost within their own world now and I try not to watch too intently: choosing instead to pick up a paper or watch their reflection in the darkened window. They could have the whole of the train to themselves but instead they linger in an ever decreasing space, shut off from the rest of the carriage.
The game becomes more serious as she makes a mistake and leaves him open to make a box, putting his initial in the centre and taking an extra turn. She flirts, perhaps trying to distract him, whispering into his ear: their heads almost touching now.
The train rumbles on through the night: the occasional voice of the tannoy announcer the only reminder that there is a world outside our little enclosure.
Finally my stop arrives and I get up, taking a last look at the scrap of paper before I head towards the door. He is winning the game: but I wonder who is winning the war.