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The train was packed and stuffy; the only available seats were in the smoker’s section which was so full of exhaled toxins that you couldn’t see from one side to the other. Still, it was better than a bus. I maneuvered my way through the cramped compartment and opened the glass divider which warned me that smoking was hazardous to my health. I was immediately engulfed in the smoke and sat down quickly near a window which I yanked open in order to breathe.
“Hello,” I jumped, startled. The voice had a Middle Eastern accent and a quick glance to the left confirmed my suspicions. It belonged to a lady, her face covered in a shawl and wearing a long black dress that hid her feet and wrists. By the look of it she was pregnant and expecting soon.
“Hi,” I mumbled back, still trying to keep my head out of the window.
The corners of her shawl lifted and I guess that the lady was smiling as she shook her head, “Not a smoker?”
I brought my head back into the compartment and shook it.
“Me neither, but theses are the only seats on the train so…”
I nodded, “Yip, so we’re stuck here. You getting off at Devon too?”
“Yes, I have family there, my aunt is very ill so I am going to visit her. Are you visiting someone to?”
“No, I’m going out for business interests, “I said nodding gesturing towards the briefcase on my lap.”
“What line of business are you in?” she asked, as the train pulled away from the station with a screech.
“Insurance,” I replied, “not very exciting I know.” The smoke disappeared from the compartment through the open windows like magic and I took a deep breathe, feeling strangely comfortable in the lady’s presence.
“Must be a lot of money in insurance nowadays, what with all the terrorism and crime,” she sighed, “makes you sad to know that people make money from others misfortunes.”
There was an awkward silence broken only by the sound of air whistling through the windows.
“But then again, you have to make a living; goodness knows it’s better than what some of the ladies back where I come from have to do to make money.”
“Prostitution?” I guessed.
“Yes, but it is not as if they have a choice, you can’t get a proper job as a women in Palestine.”
“You’re Palestinian?” I enquired.
“No, I come from Saudi Arabia but I have family in Palestine. My cousin’s husband was killed by an Israeli soldier and so she was forced into prostitution to provide for herself and her child.” Her eyes changed, seeming to grow as if filling up with emotion which she could not let out.
“I’m sorry, how is she doing now?” I said, sounding as sympathetic as I could.
“She died, “she said, looking away, “I don’t know what happened to the baby.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeated.
“That’s all right. Of course it makes me sad, but I don’t harbour any anger. Anger got us to where we are today, if we could all stop holding grudges the world would quickly become a much better place.” She was looking straight into my eyes. “I hope for a better world for my child,” she sighed rubbing her bloated stomach.
I stood up. I couldn’t listen anymore. I had to get away. I began to walk towards the compartment door.
“Sir! You’ve forgotten your briefcase,” the lady called after me.
A tear formed in my eye and slowly ran down my face. Without turning I pulled the detonator out of my pocket, closed my eyes and pushed the button.
Great people are like comets, doomed to burn slowly to extinction in order to illuminate the way forward for otheres.