Salamander Smile

She stood reading a dog-eared paperback, one arm hooked around a metal stanchion for balance. She did not look up despite the train’s incessant juddering.
You might have thought that a girl dressed in obvious hand-me-down clothing, reading a shabby book, and curtained by long, mousy brown hair, which availed nothing of her features, might’ve gone unnoticed. She did not. There was something about her carefree stance, the ever so carefully placed rips in her jeans, her perfume, that demanded attention. But it wasn’t just male attention, as every eye was upon her, female, too. The girl was like the last bar of chocolate in a sweet shop full of fat people; it demanded attention but everyone was too ashamed to touch it.
And so it went on, they watching she, she watching words, me watching them all. It was like an experiment in social interaction; I was fascinated.
The train pulled out of one disparate station after another, filling steadily, the girl always granted extra room, until, at last, she stirred.
With a flick of that mane of hair, she dispatched her locks over one denim shoulder, placed her book in a satchel I hadn’t even seen and moved towards the doorway; men parted before her in fawning respect, women more begrudgingly. The train came to a steady stop, its passengers holding expectant breaths, when the girl made one final imperialistic gesture. She waited until the carriage came to a complete stop, eyed us all and said, “Goodbye everyone.” She smiled with the knowing pursed lips of a wise old salamander and stepped from the train.
It wasn’t until the chattering started that I realised I’d missed my stop.

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