Do not stare. People had been very clear on that, endlessly repeating it. Do not stare. But do make sure to meet people’s eyes. Rude to stare, rude to look away.
Sounds congealed in the air around her; screeching metal, bird song, chatter, footsteps, forming a physical mass. Those footsteps came to her, bringing that din with them. Someone stood near and this decision primed itself to pounce. If eyes were a window, the blinds could be shut, curtains drawn.
Something about this person tugged at her attention, eking her thoughts and holding them taut. There was some peculiarity here that she had not identified, a snag in her subconscious, some hidden information.
What people hadn’t told her was the optimal duration of gaze wandering, tipped it over the brim from herbivorous curiosity to socially-punishable scrutiny, a mythical period of time that strangers experienced together, a blending of minds, each one yielding slightly before the other, look at my eyes, they spoke a language she could never hear.
The shoes. In the past, no one had been offended by shoe examinations. These were scuffed along the left side more than the right, one of the laces had a double knot, the other beginning to falter.
The lights at the end of the platform changed colour, her train heaved itself around the final turning and into the station. Orange LED lights to take her home.
Sitting down now, avoiding the table seat, facing the direction of travel, she noticed the person had not moved. They half-leant against the fence, hands in pockets, double-knotted shoe tapping on the floor. Finally she could examine their face without retribution.
Their eyes locked with hers. That was all she could remember afterwards; intense brown eyes fringed with long black eyelashes. A physical sensation of gazes slotting together, barbed, impossible to disentangle. Do not stare, for they might stare back.
Hester Dade is an autistic writer and illustrator creating work to untangle the knots in their mind. Their works have been published in science-fiction and anthologies and they were a past contributor for Herstory Arc (now F-Bomb). Hester also wrote letters for other people to send, drafted healthcare policy, and made numbers add up. They can be found at @hesterdadewords on twitter and @spellfoxart on instagram.