It was midnight and I was tired.
I had been travelling for over 24 hours and all I really wanted to do was to get to bed. It was only three stops on the metro to home, but the walk with my luggage at that time of night was a little too much, so I took the escalator down in to the bowls of the station to the metro and waited for the last train running.
After a long wait, the train slowly staggered up to the platform and sighed open its doors.
I stepped on, hauling my luggage behind me. The train sat, waiting for the last stragglers to board. A homeless guy walked along the platform, smoking a thin roll up. Pausing before the door of my carriage, he carelessly flicked the stub of his cigarette behind him and stepped on, shamelessly staring at me. I averted my gaze and instead looked at where the cigarette had landed: by the wall, on a tissue also lying there. My tired brain though it through, tissue, still smoking cigarette, oh dear…
In my mind’s eye I saw a tiny flame appear, then grow, engulfing the tissue and starting on the walls, the paper posters. I saw smoke and heard alarms, the evacuation of the station, my lost luggage, a wasted metro ticket and a long walk home. Or worse, blindness, heat, no escape.
I prayed for the train doors to shut, for the carriage to glide away, for it to become somebody else’s problem.
I contemplated stepping out of the carriage and grinding the stub under my heal, but I did not trust the homeless guy, even for a second with my luggage and it would be worst luck if the doors closed and the last train left as I was still on the platform.
Finally after and age, the buzzer sounded I was homeward bound.
The next day there were no reports of fires in the metro and I could breathe easy again.