On the train to changi airport yesterday, I was approached by a lady selling packets of tissue and wet wipes. I had my earphones in, music going, and I was actually taking advantage of the noise caused by the wind to sing along. I thought at first, when she reached towards me from her seat, that she was telling me to stop singing. I reacted instinctively, quickly shaking my head like a kid who knows it’s just a matter of time before she gets caught. It was only halfway into my head-shaking acknowledgement that I noticed the Garfield tissue packets in her outstretched hand. But it was too late; I’d turned my head away, leaving her hanging.
She was dressed in a purple tshirt, with a knee-length skirt made of dark-washed denim. When she wasn’t approaching people, she sat in her seat, doubled over, arm across stomach.
I wondered if she was hungry. I wondered if it would be okay to offer her the packet of iced gem biscuits I had bought off the street earlier, not because I needed to eat, but just because I felt like eating something. I wondered what her life was like, why she was selling these things, whether she had a home to go back to, whether she had kids, how often anyone bothered to give her the time of day. I wondered where all the tissue came from, and whether she had managed to sell any. I wondered how in need she was, how many packets she needed to sell in order to get through a day.
I thought about going over to her and asking her about all these things. she was in the second seat from the side, next to the reserved seat. I thought about squatting in front of her, asking how she was, getting answers to all my wonderings. I thought about whether my sense of balance would fail me. I thought about what others would think. I thought about what she would think, whether she would want to talk to me at all. I thought about how loud I would have to talk for her to hear me over the roar of the train.
I thought and wondered and thought and wondered…
She alighted two stops later.
I wish I’d said something.