50/50 Strangers on a Train

Every day I ride the same train and see the same kind of people.
And every day I wonder, what are they really like?

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ™

Day 50: Vulnerable

Have to stand โ€“ no spare seats.
Sheโ€™s so young.
Dark rings under her eyes.
The guy with her struggles to squeeze the buggy on board.
His hands are calloused, the skin shabby.
Her hands are small, delicate.
They both press their palms to the babyโ€™s head.
Protecting the tiny child.

Luke 2.6

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Day 49: Simeon/Anna

He rubs his hands, generates a little heat.
She hugs herself.
They both look cold.
Two small, diminutive figures.
Bundled in big coats, fingerless gloves, crooked smiles.
Shuffle past me, sit heavily.
She has her arm hooked in his.
But they donโ€™t look married somehow.
True companions.
Soul mates.

Luke 2.25/36

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Day 48: Shepherds

You can see everyone sink down in their seats the moment they get in.
Raucous laughter, crude songs,
No sign of any lager but I wouldnโ€™t put money on it.
On their way to a match?
Or somewhere else?
Whatever, theyโ€™ve no right to disrupt my morning.
Bleating like sheep.

Luke 2.8

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Day 47: Liz & Mary

Both pregnant.
Yet one could be the mother of the other.
Perhaps she is.
Maybe the young girl is about to be a mother and a sister.
The older one is certainly maternal towards her companion.
Sheโ€™s the one due first.
No doubt about it.
Wonder who was more surprised?

Luke 1.26

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Day 46: Augustus

He doesnโ€™t belong here.
Hovers in the doorway while others do his dirty work.
No desire to brush the fibres of his being against the cheaper threads.
So his men and women parade the carriage.
Pressing fist-cuffed digital counters.
Some kind of survey.
Iโ€™m an anonymous part of history.

Luke 2.1

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Day 45: Melchior

Immaculately-cropped beard.
Movember style.
Every piece of his face groomed.
He pores over his iPad.
Compares the technicolour face with a pocket book.
Narrow his eyes, his mind a well-oiled machine behind the gaze.
He glances out of the window.
A sky of gloom, no space for stars right now.

Matthew 2.1

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Day 44: Gabriel

He looks nervous.
Like he has a tough job ahead.
Melts back into his seat, trying to make himself invisible.
Pulls out a scrap of gilt-edged paper.
Reads the words, his mouth framing them as his eyes follow the text.
Learning them by heart?
Doesnโ€™t want to get it wrong.

Luke 1.26

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Day 43: The Man With No Name

I never see him get on or off.
I just see him sitting with different people ever day.
Nothing remarkable about him.
Nothing to make him stand out.
Jeans, jacket, ruffled hair, tattoos.
Sometimes heโ€™s vocal, sometimes quiet.
But he always changes something.
Flicks a switch in someoneโ€™s mind.

Isaiah 61.1

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Day 42: Jeremiah

He stands on the platform, battered guitar in hand.
Beating a rhythm on it and strumming.
No love songs or air-punching stadium anthems.
But ballads. Protest songs.
And weโ€™re the butt of the protest.
Love lost, justice forgotten, humility trampled.
This small, buckled man grows in stature as he sings.

Jeremiah 2.2

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Day 41: Shechem

Somebodyโ€™s in a hurry.
But he winces with every step.
Limps to his seat.
Takes out his phone, checks the time.
Holds a photo.
Smiles. Sighs.
That heartache kind of sigh.
Checks the time again.
Stands and winces.
Looks out the window.
Two men on the platform.
They donโ€™t smile.

Genesis 34

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Day 40: Jairus

She sleeps on his shoulder.
Presses her small frame into his.
Her face is pale, curtained by her long, black, straight hair.
She coughs and the sound is not good.
He flinches as he hears her.
As if he feels the pain too.
His face contorts, fighting back the emotion.

Mark 5.22

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Day 39: Rizpah

She stands on the same station each day.
Like an apparition.
Staring ahead by those two large crates.
The life long gone from her being.
The train flies by and the breeze generated whips at her clothes.
Sheโ€™s so thin youโ€™d think sheโ€™d be blown over.
But she doesnโ€™t move.

2 Samuel 21.10

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Day 38: John

Heโ€™s beside me.
Loud, but nothing like Sheba.
No jokes, no smart quips or laughter.
Tough questions though.
โ€˜Where are you going? And why?โ€™
Bit of a nightmare.
His shoes donโ€™t match, rope for a belt.
Wild hair and wide eyes.
Doesnโ€™t smell great.
I catch sight of others grinning.

Matthew 3.1

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Day 37: Sheba

Sheโ€™s funny.
Sits next to me and tells me all about her life.
Places sheโ€™s been, people sheโ€™s seen.
Once went to some distant kingdom.
All silks and spices and golddust.
Richest, wisest, sexiest guy on the planet.
She was impressed.
Asked tough questions.
She laughs and winks at me.

1 Kings 10.1

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Day 36: Maacah

Sheโ€™s married but it doesnโ€™t stop her.
Always chatting with the nearest guy.
Innocent, smiling, playing with her red hair.
And always men.
As if her husband isnโ€™t interested.
Too busy maybe.
As if he married her for another reason.
Power, wealth, convenience.
Or to get in with her dad.

2 Samuel 3.3

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Day 35: Nimrod

His hair is immaculately spiked, blond but Iโ€™m guessing not born that way.
His eyebrows donโ€™t match.
His mouth twitches a little, cracks a cruel smile as he works.
His fingers jab at his laptop like raptors ripping flesh.
Stops to make shapes with fingers like talons.
Heโ€™s designing something.

Genesis 10.8

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Day 34: Salome

She clutches the parcel to her.
As if it may somehow disappear suddenly.
Her eyes are dark-ringed, red too.
A long night perhaps.
Her broad open face says it all.
A soft canvass of grief.
This was not a good weekend.
She lost something.
She hugs the package and winces.

Mark 16.1

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Day 33: Enoch

An empty seat.
Odd that.
Heโ€™s usually so predictable.
Day after day heโ€™s there.
Smiling, friendly, respectful.
Always got a joke or a kind word for the person next to him.
Now nothing.
Three days and heโ€™s still missing.
Ill? Fired? Retired? Emigrated?
Something must have happened.
I miss him.

Genesis 5.23

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Day 32: Servant

Sheโ€™s watching something on her phone.
Frowning, the creases looking alien on her young forehead.
She purses her lips, chews them a little.
Is it regret?
Somethingโ€™s gnawing at her as she watches a scene played out.
Reliving it.
Rewriting it?
Whatever, it wonโ€™t let her sit in peace.

Luke 22.56

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Day 31: Bilhah

She has short grey hair.
Flecks of dark still about it.
He has no grey in sight.
The prime of youth, strong, vibrant, cocky.
He pinches her playfully, tugs at her like sheโ€™s his older sister.
She brushes him off.
Doesnโ€™t smile.
Looks around to see if anyoneโ€™s watching.

Genesis 35.22

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Day 30: Tamar

A box on her lap.
Looks like food.
Smells good.
Maybe a picnic for someone.
Maybe sheโ€™s on an errand of mercy.
I see her in the morning and the box is full.
I see her in the evening and itโ€™s empty.
And so is she.
Something unimaginable has happened.

2 Samuel 13.6

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Day 29: Palti

You donโ€™t often see that.
Eyes red, face flushed, hair damp from neglect and grief.
A man torn apart in public, so broken he doesnโ€™t care if others know.
No wailing or beating his chest.
Just sitting, staring, groaning occasionally.
Through the tears and the snot.
His world a wreck.

2 Samuel 3.15/16

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Day 28: Bezalel

He has a little box of tools.
Takes it out at the start of his journey each day.
Lays out the pieces on the table, always gets a seat with a table.
Cleans and oils each one meticulously.
Lays them neatly back in the box.
Whatโ€™s he up to then?

Exodus 35.31

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Day 27: Ichabod

Some people have a look about them.
As if their life never really took off.
Born under a cloud, their existence never got legs.
They limp.
Like him.
Hair and skin prematurely grey.
No light in his eyes.
Work, money, home, familyโ€ฆ
Nothing means anything.
Everybody dies.
Not everybody lives.

1 Samuel 4.19

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Day 26: Nahor & Milcah

Sheโ€™s a lot younger than him.
But they always travel together.
Him silent, short, round.
Her, taller, bubbly, always giggling.
Canโ€™t work out.
Are they family?
They have rings on their fingers.
He appears paternal, watching out for her in his silence.
She fiddles with his collar sometimes.
He frowns.

Genesis 11.29

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Day 25: Lot

Always so serious.
As if his heart got broken and left behind in the wreck of his dreams.
Sometimes heโ€™s with two girls.
Drop-dead gorgeous.
But heโ€™s always sullen.
Wears his mask of grief.
Sometimes he does a strange thing.
Holds a salt cellar, stares at it for the longest time.

Genesis 19.26

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Day 24: Michal

She sighs a lot.
Stares out of the window as if looking for someone.
She has a picture.
Corners frayed, creased and tattered.
She smiles sometimes at a memory.
Looks out.
Expecting someone.
Her hero maybe, some knight riding beside the train.
Battling the elements to get back to her.

1 Samuel 19. 11&12

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Day 23: Jerahmeel

Iโ€™ve seen him three times.
Back and forth, up and down the carriage.
Like a restless panther.
Caged, snarling, waiting to strike.
Looking for someone.
And not a long lost friend.
He has scars on his cheeks and venom in his eyes.
Crunches his knuckles as he eyeballs every passenger.

Jeremiah 36.26

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Day 22: Abdon

Seems remarkably peaceful.
Calm at the eye of the storm.
Grey beard, mottled with white.
Immaculate trench coat.
An authority about him.
A few words and he has them.
Palm of his hand.
Just as well, surrounded by that huge family.
Bodies everywhere.
Children grandchildren.
Gives fathers a good name.

Judges 12.14

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Day 21: Judas

Heโ€™s studying his paper.
Barber jacket, cords, boots.
He flicks the pages, looking for something.
Canโ€™t find the story, or maybe the solution heโ€™s desperate for.
He folds the paper, reads the damning headline and sighs.
Seems unhappy with the world.
Phone out, pushes button.
Talks, requesting a suitable answer.

John 14.22

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Day 20: Sanballat

Heโ€™s annoyed about something.
Little flecks of spit fly from his mouth towards his blackberry.
The rest of the carriage can hear the burst of gunfire dialogue.
Something about a proposed building project.
And refusalย  to grant planning permission.
Thatโ€™s the word that keeps coming up.
Disturbing the peace.

Nehemiah 4.1

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Day 19: Zipporah

She looks a hard woman.
Tanned skin, to the point of leather.
Scars on her knuckles, fingers calloused.
Argues with the ticket inspector.
He comes off worst.
Then I see the baby.
Hear the tender way she speaks to it.
Sings as she cradles it.
Glances up at me.

Exodus 4.24

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Day 18: Anonymous

The lads are on again.
School run.
Two stops, thatโ€™s all.
Rowdy, all pushing and pulling and laughing at strange, unintelligible jokes.
Except one boy.
Gangly, keeps himself to himself.
Intense, head busyย somewhere.
Stands alone, nursing his lunch box.
Doesnโ€™t look as if heโ€™d share it with anyone.

John 6.9

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Day 17: Unknown

Great! – noisy kids.
I turn to give them a mouthful, then stop.
A bunch of girls, all gum and hair.
Except for her, the one in the middle.
Sheโ€™s crying, tears tracking silently down her face.
The others swap ideas for making things better.
Mending her broken heart.

Judges 11.34

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Day 16: John Mark

Heโ€™s nervous, rubs his head a lot, ruffles his hair.
Mumbles to himself, trying to get something right.
Attempting perhaps to replay the past.
Boots, skinny jeans, denim jacket.
Glances around alot, being followed maybe?
Scribbles everywhere, on his hand, a notepad, train ticket, napkin.
Perhaps heโ€™s writing a bestseller.

Acts 15.38 [Mark]

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ย Day 15: Joe

Sniffs a lot, like heโ€™s getting over a cold, or his tubes are bunged from smoking.
Heโ€™s dressed well, but his skin is pasty.
As if heโ€™s been out of the sun for a long time.
Sick? Or something else?
He watches the world flash by.
Looks relieved.

Genesis 41.14

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ย Day 14: Daughter

Her eyelids are the biggest thing about her.
Painted mauve, like sunshades over large, searching eyes.
Flickering nervously.
Pale, freckled complexion.
Shy, awkward, says nothing to anyone.
I get the feeling sheโ€™s hiding something.
Nothing sinister.
But a secret.
Something extraordinary youโ€™d never guess sitting opposite her on a train.

Matthew 9.22

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Day 13: ย Isaiah

He beats a rhythm with his index fingers, but he has no mp3 player.
No plastic jutting from his ears.
The tuneโ€™s in his head.
His eyes are closed and his wild, black hair frames his creased brow.
Heโ€™s smiling, mouthing words he knows by heart.
Or is making up.

Isaiah 5.1

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Day 12: Obadiah

Looks like a spy.
Shades, suit, shaken not stirred.
Shouldnโ€™t be riding the train.
Should be in a DB5.
Takes out an old-fashioned notebook.
Dog-eared, well-thumbed.
If I lean right I can make out two lists.
Names I think.
He strokes his chin.
His sheer, smooth, superspy chin.
Nods quietly.

1 Kings 18.4

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Day 11: Jezebel

She watches him.
The superspy.
She leans when I lean, tries to get a closer look at that notebook.
Those names.
Her eyes are dark, her cheeks well-boned.
Somewhere in the recesses of her mind the plot thickens.
Or so it seems to me.
She watches, waits, narrows those eyes.

1 Kings 18.4

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Day 10: Goliath

He wants everyone to know heโ€™s there.
Sings along to the songs on his iPod.
Drums his fingers, taps his big feet.
Takes up two seats even when itโ€™s crowded.
Eyes up the women.
Comments sometimes.
Hate tattooed across his knuckles, etched in his eyes.
I never make eye contact.

1 Samuel 17.41

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Day 9: Tabitha

She comes on with someone different every day.
Carries tickets for both of them.
Like sheโ€™s paid.
She gives up her seat when itโ€™s crowded.
Chats to anyone nearby.
Brightly-striped coat.
Sometimes I see her in the evening, tired then.
Quiet, alone.
Dozes against the glass.
Long, hard days perhaps.

Acts 9.36

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Day 8: Deborah

She makes calls.
Always has her laptop open and her cell phone out.
But she doesnโ€™t dress like a business woman.
Doesnโ€™t look like sheโ€™s shifting stocks and shares.
Has that hippy look.
Flowing skirt, sari shawl, heavy make-up.
Bling clattering like a bell.
She talks, people listen.
Things happen.

Judges 4.4

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Day 7: Eutychus

Heโ€™s usually so quiet.
Sits there rigid, impassively staring out of the window.
But not today.
Today his thumbs are on fire.
Flitting across the keys on the screen of his iPhone.
Whatever the news heโ€™s sending it to everyone.
What happened last night?
Something put life in his veins.

Acts 20.9

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Day 6: Abi

She fingers the wedding ring.
Frowns when she does it.
Sometimes she pulls it off and lays it on the table in front of her.
Purses her lips.
Her phone rings.
She sighs, smiles, slips the ring back on, answers it.
The man on the other end talks a lot.

1 Samuel 25.3

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Day 5: Blastus

He carries that briefcase everyday.
Chained to his wrist.
Tanned, goodlooking, steel-grey eyes.
Armani suit, Rolex watch, Gucci shoes.
Thereโ€™s a bulge beneath his breast pocket, itโ€™s not his heart.
Heโ€™s packing something.
Thumbs through Jack Reacher novels.
Slips a Davidoff cigarette between his lips minutes before leaving.
Doesnโ€™t smile.

Acts 12.20

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Day 4: Joanna

Counting her money again.
Strange cause she doesnโ€™t look poor.
Well-dressed, good shoes, very good shoes.
Make-up conceals the stress marks, faint eczema patches.
Must have a stressful life.
Or be with someone who has.
Every day the same.
Puts that bit of cash aside.
What’s she doing with that?

Luke 8.3

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Day 3: Daniel

I wonder if I should offer him my seat.
I know itโ€™s not expected anymore but still.
Heโ€™s old, his body bent, his grey beard a little ragged.
His breathing rasps a little, but thereโ€™s a twinkle in his eyes.
Like he knows something.
Seen a few things.
Been around.

Daniel 6.4

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Day 2: Ruth & Gomez

Sheโ€™s small, petite, painfully shy.
Heโ€™s older. Much older.
He glances sideways at her, as if he canโ€™t quite believe his luck.
She does the same when he looks away.
Thereโ€™s gratitude, and some kind of hope.
And they fit.
Like a pair of slippers, one battered the other new.

Ruth 2.10&11

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Day 1: Esther & Xerxes

That couple opposite look like movie stars.
Sheโ€™s all paint and fabrication.
He has the body to die for.
Her eyes give something away though.
A distant haunting, as if sheโ€™s been pushed into this.
Does he love her, this god-like companion?
Or is she just a trophy for him?

Esther 2.16

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  1. Simeon Wood says:

    Dave – I am loving the easy reads of 50/50. They appeal to living in a fast wrold with little time. Will there be a 20/20?

  2. dave says:

    Cheers Sim, 20/20 – hmmm… now there’s a thought…

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