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(A short story of 2690 words)

The Proximity of Strangers


by Lisa Samson

A young man follows a young woman out of a tube station.

We were pressed side by side, wedged between enormous suitcases belonging to two tourists who glared at each other over our heads. As the carriage swayed round a bend in the tunnel, I grasped hold of the young woman’s arm to steady her, but she did not thank me, or even raise her eyes from her newspaper. I could smell her perfume. It was Chanel No. 5; I was sure of it. It was a sickly sweet relief to the nostrils in that sweaty carriage. My thigh was hot where it touched hers and beads of perspiration trickled down my forehead. I wasn’t used to travelling on tubes, or of the close proximity of strangers. Most passengers alighted at the stop before and the girl moved to sit down on a vacated seat, leaving me to mop my brow and recover my equanimity...

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