The Platform's Edge

Mark Stocker

Today, I stood in a different place. Every piece of me ached to be back in my regular spot – in front of the coffee kiosk, opposite the ticket office, feet either side of a small crack in the concrete at the platform’s edge.

When the train pulled in, the doors opened several yards away, so I had to wait to be swept into the carriage. I sat on the left instead of the right, facing the way I had come rather than the direction I was going in, and was pricked by the strangeness of it.

I wondered if the man in the kiosk had noticed I was missing.

I ran down the escalators on the Tube for the first time ever, right hand side, ignoring the people who swore at me as they jumped out of my way.

At work, I had my 11:00 break at 10:47, which felt wild. I didn’t use my usual mug but took one from the kitchen with a joke on it about ownership and proper tea, which turned out to be not so much of a joke and led to a passive-aggressive exchange of emails.

I added sugar to my drink – something I hadn’t done for a long time – and was surprised at how bad it tasted.

At midday, I dropped my cheese rolls into the bin under the desk and walked to the sandwich bar along the road, where I ordered a chicken baguette with chipotle mayonnaise, even though I didn’t know what that was. It was too spicy for me, but I ate it anyway.

The mug situation spilled over into an afternoon meeting, where – ditching my natural reserve in response to a provocative glance – I threatened to smash the mug into the face of a colleague. I cried as I raged and people I’d known for years ran fingers down their agendas searching for distraction while I was removed from the room.

I didn’t take my normal route home from the station. I went to Kev’s Corner Shop at the far end of the High Street, where I bought a packet of twenty Marlboro. I smoked for the first time since 1997, inhaling hard and holding it in for as long as I could. I felt sick as I turned my key in the front door.

I hung my coat on the first hook, not the second.

Both were empty.

On Thursday nights we have sausages for tea. I look forward to the warmth of the kitchen and the crackle of pork in the pan. We sit together at the table, slathering bread with butter and ketchup, and talk about our day. We often laugh at how little changes from one week to the next.

But, tonight, the kitchen is cold. Tonight, I stand somewhere different, and there is no going back.

Mark Stocker is a writer and advertising creative. He lives with his family in Suffolk. He started writing flash fiction last year and has had work longlisted by Cranked Anvil, shortlisted by Lunate Fiction, and published by Flash Fiction Magazine.