Daniel sat tiredly on the tube, drifting in and out of sleep. It was almost 7AM. His flight did not leave back to the states until nine, so he was making great timing. Even though he enjoyed his much needed vacation with his best friend, there was still something weighing on him. He had slept late, saw sights, ate well and had what should have been some of the best times of his life. Now, however, he felt as though it might have been a waste of time and money.
As I looked at the young man, it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t as young as he used to be. He wasn’t old, but he definitely wasn’t as young. It seemed as though he was coming to the realization that the single party life was starting to run out. The fact that he had to travel all the way to London to visit his last single friend should have been obvious proof of that. As a matter of fact, even his last single friend was not-so-single.
Daniel rubbed his eyes together his eyes as the train pulled to a stop at the next station. Not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, he checked his phone until everyone had settled and the train was moving again. Across from him, a mother sat with a little boy that was staring directly at him. As soon as Daniel met the gaze of the toddler, the little boy looked up at his mom and asked:
“Mommy, is that man going to work?
He has a tie like daddy… And a blue shirt?”
Something about the way the child’s curiosity was peaked by Daniel’s blue shirt and tie woke him to full awareness. Daniel scrambled around in his pocket for something to give the boy. Pulling what he had learned to call a “fiver” from his pocket, he asked the mother, “Do you mind?”
“Not at all.”
The wide-eyed boy shyly accepted the money, but continued talking to Daniel.
“I’m going home with my daddy.
He gives me money too.
I came here with my mommy
But only to ride the tube.”
As I watched Daniel, a smile spread grew on him, that seemed too big for his face. He picked the boy up and sat him in the seat next to him. “What’s your name, Big Guy?” The boy looked at his mom as if to asked if it was okay to answer. She nodded and said, “Tell him your name.”
“My name is David Lucas, Jr.
Just like my daddy.
Except his name is David Lucas, Sr.
It’s almost the same… So I’m still happy.”
He fondled the bill in his hands folding it over and over while smiling at every thought of his father. “Well my name is Daniel, but you can call me Dan.”
He smile at the intro and said, “Hi Mr. Dan.
When I see my dad I will say hello for you.
I’m going to tell him you were a nice man,
And you gave me five pounds and your shirt was blue.”
The little boy’s smile now matched Daniel’s. His short legs kicked from the edge of his seat seeming to be in direct correlation with his happiness. Maybe this is what Daniel had been missing.
The train pulled to the next stop where the mother gathered her child, thanked Daniel and exited the train. The doors closed as the little boy waved back at Daniel with the bill flopping about in he hand. Daniel also waved as the feeling of tiredness crept back — but this time accompanied with a feeling of loneliness. The train pulled off and left the boy and his mother in the past.
I watched Daniel fidget back and forth between phone and books until the train finally arrived at his stop. He seemed so detached from everyone and everything; as if he were completely oblivious to the reality of anything. The doors opened and I stood to the side as he eased by me and off the train. “Excuse me,” he said. It was surprising to hear him say anything after watching his mood flatten. He made his way up solemnly up the escalators as the doors closed between he and I.
“Daniel, Daniel, Daniel,” I murmured. “You have to open up to yourself.”