171. 8.30am. Top deck, halfway down on the right.

I was deep in a book when a crackling, popping sound made me look up. I couldn’t locate the source at first, because the top deck was typically full of people, all shuffling coats and papers. I finally spotted across from me a young man, perhaps eighteen years old, effortfully removing bubblewrap from something. He was sitting on his own, and was concentrating quite hard on his task. It took him a long time, because there were layers of Sellotape to contend with as well, but eventually he freed the thing.

It was an army-issue cap. That’s when my gaze took in the big black backpack, and the camouflage-print trousers, and the buzzcut.

I hope this young man knows what he’s letting himself in for.


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