When I was first starting my chemo as an outpatient, back in May or so, I used to have to go into hospital quite often.
It was pretty routine - go up there, spend an hour or so while they checked my bloods and made sure I was doing ok, then go home.
I used to have to go up at least 3 times a week, and always got the same train as the ideal time (apparently) to get into hospital was 10am.
The 9:12am train from Woking.
Now I'm one of these people who quite likes routines. I won't go nuts if things are out of place, but I find it easier to cope if I know and can predict how things will happen.
When I first started getting this train, I'd get a lift in with my dad and come into the station on one side of the platforms.
I started to just walk in though after a while, which took me through the other entrance to the station.
This walk made me end up at a different end of the platform.
Which made me end up at a different end of the train.
At the beginning, when I started to get on the train, there was often a shortage of seats. It would always be the same people on the train too.
You know the kind of people I mean.
Young business types in cheap suits convinced they're very important, tapping away on their laptops on Word documents which probably could wait until they got into the office but that wouldn't make them look busy on the train.
Old guys with briefcases realising they're drawing close to retirement and relishing the fact that the number of these train journeys is down to three digits.
Men who have spread themselves out somehow onto four seats and the table just to ensure noone enters their own little personal zone for the 30 minute train journey.
There were never many girls on these carriages.
Once I moved to the other end of the train, things changed.
It was a whole other world
Now, you have to rememeber that at this point I'd only just started my chemo. I'd be feeling ill for a couple of days straight after, but apart from that I was generally "normal" and just had a lot of spare time on my hands.
Anyway - back to the train.
The first thing I noticed was that the carriage was hardly full at all. I'm not sure if the train called at a lot of stations with short platforms, or if everyone assumed it would be full, but I felt like I'd hit some sort of trainseat goldmine.
The first time I got on, I wanted to sit on a tabled area as I had some food with me for breakfast.
I moved to the middle of the carriage and spied a spot.
There was someone else there but they had their head to the back of me.
I manouvered in and slid across to the window.
I always prefer the window seat, so if I nod off I won't be drooping into the aisle dribbling like a spastic (I'll be dribbling down the windowpane instead!)
I planted my little breakfast package (it was a bacon roll or something equally healthy - I don't remember) on the table and looked up to smile at whoever was opposite me. I didn't expect them to be looking at me, but I've been brought up to be a polite young man so it's just what I do.
My eyes were transfixed.
A girl was sitting diagonally opposite me reading a book. She must have noticed me staring because she glanced at me and smiled. I smiled back, although when thinking back to the interaction later I realised I must have looked like I had Down's Syndrome or something by the way my eyes wouldn't move from her (and the inane grin on my face).
I don't normally stare at girls. I'm aware it's pretty creepy.
She was incredibly cute though.
Short spiky dark hair.
Slim black-rimmed glasses (I think glasses can look incredibly sexy on some girls, and this was one case where I was correct).
Very petite body. I couldn't tell her boob size as she was wearing a shirt, but I guess it was somewhere around A.
I managed to draw my eyes away from her and concentrate on my breakfast, trying to eat it in as suave and sophisticated way as I could (I think I even took the free napkin out and put it down my T-shirt collar).
I'm odd when it comes to girls. If I'm in the right mood, I'll chat to any girl, independent of whether I'm drunk or not.
Other times I bottle up and am completely shy.
In fact I find it very hard to talk to girls I'm really attracted to.
This being no exception.
I managed to catch her eye a few times.
Later, when sitting in the hospital kicking myself for not talking to her, I figured she probably thought I was a weirdo who kept smiling at her.
I thought that'd be it - a fleeting few glances shared between us. Hardly your 21st century epic tale of romance.
On the Wednesday I went into the same carriage. Crossing my fingers (and my heart!) I hoped she'd be there.
Sitting in the same spot.
Now I had a dilemma. I wasn't expecting
her to be there.
Did I sit opposite her again?
Did I sit near to her?
My feet decided for me. I sat on the other side of the carriage, but diagonally opposite again.
This time she looked up from her book and smiled at me. I smiled back.
She acknowledged me!
She knew of my existence!
Did I say anything?
Hell no! A smile would do for now.
Slow and steady wins the race!
(or so Dace keeps telling me
While sitting in hospital waiting for my bloodtest results I formed a plan.
Well I say a plan, it was more a conversation in my head.
Instead of the little devil and angel, I had nervous-geeky-tom and smooth-cool-tom on either shoulder (one looked like Dace and the other looked like KoeN - you can* work out which one is which!)
"Just talk to her!"
"I know, but what if she snubs me?"
"It's not like she'll tell you to get lost, don't be silly"
"Yeah but how do you start up a conversation on a train without coming across as creepy?"
"Find a common interest"
"What, that we both get on a train to Waterloo? Go go Casanova Rattle"
"How about that the carriage is empty"
"Wow that's almost as exciting - this is a relationship born in heaven and no mistake. Why don't you talk about the colour of the ****ing windows while you're at it?"
So the next day I made sure I shaved. Made sure I wore aftershave. Made sure I looked smart.
I didn't want to broach onto the "yes I keep getting this train because I have cancer" area. Not exactly sexy.
Got on the train.
There my short-spikey-haired lovely was, sitting in the same spot.
I decided to sit in the same spot as last time. If she was going to keep sitting in the same place, so was I dammit.
The smile. Check.
Now was the time. STRIKE before she gets too involved in her book again.
"Why is this carriage always so empty?"
Shit... shit. She must have heard me. Did she say sorry because she thinks I'm making the worst chatup line in the history of the world or because she actually didn't hear me?
"This carriage... I used to get on the ones further down and they're jampacked (shit, did I just use the word JAMPACKED?!
) with businessmen. This one's pretty much empty though"
"Oh, I dunno. Maybe I smell or something?"
TOO LOUD. TOO LOUD. BE COOL. HAVE A COOL LAUGH. MORE DAVID HASSELHOFF LESS GRAHAM NORTON.
"I'm Tom by the way"
"Hi, I'm Ashley"
What a sexy name.
Cursory smile again.
Back to the book.
That's fine... that's fine. We're laying the groundwork. Slow and steady. Slow and steady.
Her voice was very sexy, I remember thinking. There was a slight touch of Welsh (I think) in it, and it was slightly husky.
Before I get anyone telling me this obsession was a little odd, I'll remind you again that I didn't have a whole lot to do with my time
. I spent most days dossing on the internet and watching TV. Little events like this were the most exciting things in my life for a long period.
Again at the hospital I ran through some other conversation topics. I knew her name now, so I could ask where she went or where she worked or something. Move above and beyond the "we both get on the same train" conversation.
So come Monday, I was ready to charm this girl. I felt alive and I'd maybe even ask her for her number!
There she was, sitting in the same spot.
I sat in my same spot.
The next half hour was a rush of pleasure for me. We got on incredibly. I discovered where she worked and where she lived. I found out what she thought of films and where she went to university. Those are the only topics of conversation I can remember.
I recall laughing and making her laugh a lot.
It was ace.
We didn't broach the boyfriend category, even though I dropped the fact I was single into the conversation.
No mention of a boyfriend is surely a good sign though?
I decided that was the next barrier.
Then after that would be asking her on a date.
The next week would be an eventful one for our young hero.
Before Wednesday came around I worked out different ways of getting the boyfriend topic into the conversation. Asking it straight out would have obviously been easiest, but I just couldn't ask it.
I asked what she was up to at the weekend. She said probably going into Guildford with some friends.
Damn. No mention of boyfriend again.
A good thing, surely?
I decided to drop the bombshell. No more pussyfooting around for me.
I subconsciously thought the words "What would pig do here" before launching the bomb actually. Really and truly.
"Are you single then?"
"Ha - yeah I am. Why?"
BECAUSE I WANT TO TAKE YOU INTO ONE OF THESE TRAIN TOILETS AND HAVE MY WICKED WAY WITH YOU AND WAS WORRIED THERE WAS A 7 FOOT NINJA BOYFRIEND AT YOUR HOME WAITING TO KILL ME.
Anyway. That's a WIN. No boyfriend. Available. Single to mingle. Cha-ching!
I'd promised myself the next barrier would be asking her on a date. She lived in a town only 15 minutes away from Woking, so it was a reasonable idea. It would take up all my courage and charm and ninja-wimmins-wooing-power though.
So as I got on that train on the Friday I again had a whole plethora of ways to ask her.
"What are you up to tonight?"
"What time do you normally get home?"
"Do you like Italian food?"
"Fancy a drink?"
"Rohypnol for the lady?"
"Would you like some sausage in your hotdog bun?"
As I sat down I got the cursory smile and a "Heya!" from her. She was pleased to see me. I'm such a winner.
I didn't start with any smalltalk, as I was trying to think of ways to start smalltalk and then lead into bigtalk.
Sorry if this is very drawn out and you're frustrated with how much of a spastic I'm being.
I'm telling it as it was.
I'm not as smooth an operator as I'd have many of you believe.
Anyway. Like I said. Slow and steady wins the race.
Just as I'd worked out a way of breaking into conversation (AND THEN BREAKING HER!
) she put her book down and got up.
Straightening down her shirt, she moved towards the end of the carriage.
The "Toilet Engaged" sign lit up.
Such a cute bum.
SUCH a cute bum.
I resolved to ask her when she got back.
I HAD to ask her when she got back.
At the moment of the "Toilet Engaged" sign turning off, the train pulled into Surbiton.
I watched her come out of the toilet, not managing to take my eyes off her crotch/bum area. I guess I am truly a pervert.
Normally noone ever gets on at Surbiton.
This time, SEVEN people got on.
Seven SEPARATE people.
You guessed it. One of them proceeded to sit opposite me with his damn laptop and started clicking away.
What was he hoping to do? We were only 15 minutes out of Waterloo. By the time he'd loaded up whatever crappy spreadsheet he was going to load, he'd have to save it and leave!
This ruined my plan. I'm not asking some girl out with Twatty McGit sitting opposite me clacking away.
I would have to wait until the Monday.
I think part of me was grateful for it. It allowed me an excuse to not ask her.
Again at the hospital, sitting in the waiting room, my mind went over the train's events.
There isn't a whole lot to do in hospitals except daydream so I allowed my mind to replay it over.
There was something I ran through a few times, that confused me a little bit. It was the moment where the "Toilet Engaged" sign turned off, and she came out of the toilet and back into the carriage.
I must have got the memory wrong.
It didn't make any sense.
I decided to hold off asking her on that date for now. I'd have to make sure of this little oddity first.
The weekend was uneventful - I went over to Jersey and didn't think much of Ashley at all.
Monday rolled around. I made sure I shaved and wore deodorant. I thought I looked pretty good, except for the fact a few locks of my hair had fallen out in the shower that morning. It wasn't noticeable but I still was less than impressed.
I sat in my usual spot, and got a "Hey, good weekend?" from her.
Some more smalltalk.
Again, she got up to go to the toilet just before Surbiton.
I could check to see if I was imagining things.
Watched her bum wiggle up the aisle. Nice. (You pervert)
Watched the "engaged" sign turn on.
About two minutes passed. Quick wee.
The sign flicked off.
This was the moment to check.
THERE IT WAS AGAIN.
As she exitted the toilet, she did up her fly.
Now while I'm a spastic at talking to girls, I'm well aware that girls need to sit down when they go to the loo. That kind of stuff doesn't get past Observer Tom!
Because girls sit down when they go to the loo, they always do their flies and buttons up before exitting the toilet.
Whereas us men just have to zip up and go.
This was a new development.
As she sat down I started to watch her closely. She was wearing a shirt again.
As I said before, she had very small boobs.
As she leant forward to get her book, the shirt opened a little bit. I had to check. I didn't care if I was caught being a leering pervert. I stared.
There was no bra.
In fact the boobs appeared to be non-existent.
I moved my eyes a little higher.
There was a little teeny tiny Adam's apple there.
Ashley was no girl at all.
Asley was a very effeminate boy.
Needless to say I went back to the crowded carriage with the busy important businessmen for the rest of my 9:12am journeys.