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Inspirational

All days begin the same, but none of them end in the same fashion. The incessant rhythm of routine gives way to the unpredictable dance of existence, and this was a dance I would never forget.

I am a businessman in London, living the life of a perpetual blur. My life is usually as crisp as my suits, and as monochrome as my business proposals. But that day was different.

As I boarded the packed 7:35 to Victoria, a swirl of colour caught my eye. An ethereal girl with dark eyes and vibrant hair was seated by the window, her head lowered. I found a unique sadness lingering in her black-lined eyes, an enigmatic hint of melancholy that was at odds with the kaleidoscope of her hair. Then she departed at the next station, leaving an empty seat and a curious mark on the window.

My breath fogged the cool glass as I leaned to take the vacated seat. A cryptic message revealed itself in the fog, "Why me?". It was simple, so simple that it might seem mundane to some. Yet, the existential weight of those two words hooked onto my thoughts and refused to let go.

For the rest of the journey, and many times throughout the day, I was haunted by her question. I began to picture scenarios for her, musing about what could have happened to inspire such a potent question. Each image seemed more tragic than the last. Was it the superficial distress of a failed test or a broken shoelace, or was it something much darker, like a love betrayed or a terminal prognosis?

As I pondered over her life, my own began to unravel in my mind. I was no stranger to adversity; I had asked myself the same question numerous times - 'Why me?'. The struggles of my past resurfaced; my parents' premature passing, the battle to fund my education, the crushing hours at the office, the failure of my first business venture. It was a litany of "Why me?" moments, a refrain of despair.

But as I allowed the vignettes of my past to play out, I remembered the kindness that seeped into my life from unexpected corners. A teacher's encouragement, a stranger's compliment, a friend's comforting words on a lonely night - all had helped me weather the storm. I was never alone in my hardship. The universe had been cruel, yet kind enough to sprinkle these compassionate souls in my path.

On the journey home, I felt an inexplicable compulsion. I disembarked at the station where the colourful-haired girl had left that morning. There was a cafe on the platform, its golden lights promising warmth and respite. I didn't know why I was there, but I felt an unshakeable urge to wait.

She was there, the sad girl from the train, her colourful hair tucked neatly under a barista's cap. Behind the cafe counter, her persona was cheerful, her conversations with customers peppered with jokes and laughter. But beneath the facade, I could discern a thread of sorrow, woven into her very being. I recognised it all too well. It was the same thread that had bound all of my 'Why me?' moments.

As she prepared my coffee, I took a napkin and a pen. I wasn't sure what I wanted to write, but my hand moved of its own accord. I folded the napkin, sliding it across the counter in exchange for the steaming cup. Then, I left. I did not look back to see her reaction; instead, I found my place back on the train, finding comfort in the rhythm of my commute.

The train started to pull away, and I stole a glance at the cafe. She was standing by the window, the setting sun casting a gentle glow around her. The napkin was in her hand, and her eyes were focused on it. She looked up and our eyes locked for a moment. Then, a smile - small but genuine - began to spread across her face. The sadness in her eyes seemed to have retreated, replaced with a glimmer of relief.

I leaned back into my seat, my heart pulsating with an unfamiliar but pleasant warmth. I gazed out of the window, the cityscape bathed in the warm hues of the evening sun, passing by in a blur. The cryptic message of the morning lingered in my mind, replaced now by a renewed sense of connection and understanding. The 'Why me?' was still there, but it no longer felt like a cry into the void; rather, it was a bridge connecting two souls who shared the same question.

That evening, as I sat in the silence of my apartment, my thoughts circled back to her. I wondered if my words had made a difference, or if they'd be forgotten by the morning. But it didn't matter. What mattered was that I had reached out, breaking the cocoon of my own routine to touch another life.

My day had started like any other, with a crowded train ride and a window seat. But the events of the day, starting with a simple, sorrow-filled message, had steered it into a dance with empathy and connection. It was a dance I would never forget, a dance that brought back the colour into my monochrome world.

I looked down at my own hand, still holding the pen I had used to write on the napkin. I decided to keep it, a memento of the day I broke my routine, of the day I discovered the healing power of kind words. It was a silent reminder of the beautiful paradox that even in our deepest moments of questioning 'Why me?', we are never alone.

As I held onto that pen, I realised the contents of the note I had written weren't just meant for the sad girl in the cafe, they were also meant for me, "In a world full of 'Why me?' moments, remember you're not alone. Your pain is valid, your struggles are real, but you're stronger than you know. Even when it feels like it's just you against the world, there will be unexpected hands ready to hold you. Just reach out."

The 'Why me?' question was universal, applicable to everyone at some point in their lives. But that day, I had come to understand that it was also a testament to our shared human experience, a reminder that we all face challenges, we all ask 'Why me?', and we all, somehow, keep moving forward.

And so, even in the face of uncertainty and hardship, I knew I would wake up the next day, put on my suit, and board the 7:35 train. But as I gazed out of the window, as the cityscape passed by in a blur, I would carry with me the knowledge that I was never alone. The dance of existence would continue, and I was ready for whatever steps it would bring.

May 22, 2023 11:49

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11 comments

Timothy Rennels
13:26 Jun 01, 2023

I like the phrase "The universe had been cruel, yet kind enough to sprinkle these compassionate souls in my path". A good reminder to all! Welcome to Reedsy! Write on...

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Topher Winters
22:05 Jun 02, 2023

Wow! Thank you for pulling that one from amongst the fray! That particular line is actually a paraphrase of part of my wedding vows. The "cruel" bit was obviously not part of what I originally said to my soon-to-be, but I wanted her to know how profound an impact her arrival made in my life. And thank you for the warm welcome. I look forward to reading more of the amazing works within Reedsy, and hope to contribute a nugget or two from time to time.

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Mary Bendickson
16:40 May 28, 2023

This is Sunday morning after church and I keep reading inspirational messages from authors I haven't met before. Does the soul good. Thank you for another one.

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Topher Winters
20:24 May 28, 2023

Thank you, Mary. Funny enough, I never actually started out with any intention towards extending an inspirational tone. I was, however, compelled by the focal prompt to share events in my life where the kindness extended by strangers made immensely positive impacts. The fact that you find inspiration in these words is truly a gift I cherish. Have a blessed day, Mary, and thank you again.

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Kevin Logue
19:13 May 27, 2023

A simple yet effective piece. Well done. This feels that this comes from a real place, almost journalistic and as such it has heart.

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Topher Winters
20:37 May 27, 2023

Thank you, Kevin, for recognising the journalistic aspect. The style was inspired by another of this contest's writing prompts: "Write a story about someone who finds someone’s diary, and tries to reunite it with its owner. It’s up to you whether they read it or not!" I wanted the reader to feel they were peering over the shoulder of my commuter as he catalogued the day's events and speculations in his memoirs. Your observation means more as a validation to me than you can imagine. Thank you again.

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David Sweet
15:59 May 27, 2023

Awesome insights! It is great to know we are never alone---only if more people arrived at this realization. Thank you for sharing. Not sure if this is fiction or non-fiction, but it hits the feels the same way, either way. I noticed this was your first submitted piece to Reedsy. Keep up the writing and the inspiration.

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Topher Winters
20:26 May 27, 2023

Thank you, David, both for the kind words about my story, and for the encouragement to continue sharing. As for whether or not the piece is fictional, I will say the characters are, but the scenario has definitely played out in my life on more than one occasion. I have been blessed to have been the recipient when I needed it most, and I have had the humbling honour to be the messenger for another troubled soul. And if, somehow, through the power of words, this story serendipitously stokes the flames of resolution for a reader in their mome...

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David Sweet
04:18 May 28, 2023

Fantastic! I really do believe you should keep sharing.

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Unknown User
02:29 May 30, 2023

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Topher Winters
14:57 May 30, 2023

Cheers, Lisle! It has been a long minute since I was active on any writer's forum. I'll definitely date myself when I say that Facebook wasn't even a thing the last time I rubbed elbows amongst a circle of scribes. It feels so good to be active and creative again. And kind words such as yours, and the others who have contributed, is absolutely appreciated. I hope to contribute more, and to offer similar value to my critiques.

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