Dad and I take the short drive from where we’re staying to Wauchope to pick my youngest brother up from the train station. The train has been delayed from the outset of its journey in Sydney, and won’t pull into the platform for at least an hour after its scheduled time.
When we arrive at the station there are a number of people sitting inside. We ask them if there’s been an update on when the train will arrive. ‘Twenty minutes or forty minutes from now, depending on which announcement you believe,’ comes the answer. I wonder how long these people have been sitting here with their bags.
We decide to sit outside on the platform. Dad loves trains. I love train platforms. I think of them as little islands of in-between, almost the same everywhere. The white edge and the yellow line painted on the asphalt, the hard benches — usually blue in New South Wales — and the people waiting. Today, a couple and their toddler and a woman leaving behind a man sit with us on the platform.
The announcement over the loudspeaker tells us we’ve got at least half an hour’s wait. We talk about train travel, about finding a journey as interesting as its destination.
‘Who lives in Wauchope,’ I wonder aloud. Dad types the question into his smart phone. Real estate agents, tourist information sites. But then profiles of people. A man in his eighties, several people in their fifties and sixties, just a handful of people in their thirties. It dawns on us that we’re looking at an online dating site. At first it’s amusing, but the more profiles we view, the more uncomfortable we become with our voyeurism. Soon, Dad puts his phone away, and not long after the train comes and deposits my brother on the platform. He has been travelling for thirteen hours, and all day has eaten just a piece of toast, a muffin and a coke.
It is not the names, nor the faces, nor the likes and dislikes of the people of Wauchope looking for love online that stays with me; it is their ages. Numbers. I wonder who is maintaining their profiles, whether they’re looking for a new start or whether they just haven’t found the right person yet. And I wonder at our discomfort, re-evaluate our sadness. Numbers. Still so full of hope.