The stench hit me as soon as he sat down. You get used to differing flavours of reek when travelling on a train in rush hour. They hit the back of your mouth and seem to nest there for the rest of the day. This was acrid, like strong industrial soap and powdered ajax, the sort of disinfectant my nan used to scour all over her body when she started believing she smelt of death. His wax jacketed arm was leaning into mine so I tried to push myself as close as possible to the murky window for fear of being tainted with this aroma and having to sit in a air conditioned office all day tainted in ‘clean’. I turned and scowled at his wide bald face, he was too busy staring gormlessly at his phone to notice my silent protest. I took a minute to look at him, his bulbous red nose was ejecting some sort of green and blue slime that was dangerously gravitating to his mouth. There was a blackhead so large and ingrained on the right nostril it distracted me for a second and I wondered why he didn’t scour his face in ajax too, that would surely clean that muck out. I’d been watching youtube videos of people squeezing all manner of solid yellowing puss out of blackheads and it looked rather soothing and satisfactory, but my eyes flickered back to the dripping mucus and I gagged a little. My stop was three more stations away and there was nowhere to stand anymore, I was trapped in public transport hell. I started to pray he didn’t shake his head like a wet dog and cover the whole carriage with strands of multicoloured bodily fluids when suddenly he took out a clean white tissue and started blowing his nose. He opened the tissue after a final intense blow and looked horrified, his eyes suddenly turned to me and caught my aghast face for a second. He mumbled something incomprehensible, I’m not even sure it was language, more a pitying wail, and turned to face the passengers to the left of him, the smell of acrid soap and ajax wafting from his wax jacket. I turned the music on my MP3 player up and prayed he got off at the next station.
The Ajax Train