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Singapore Subway

Singapore Subway

Last week, I saw a woman in the subway. Not a particularly beautiful woman, mousy, really, with no real personality, nothing on her face that attracted the eye at first glance and kept it there.

Tiny eyes, pudgy cheek, no chin, short straggly black hair. Clothes that had seen better days– a worn pink t-shirt, a sweat jacket on top, several sizes too big.

I kept my eyes traveling downwards, and saw the hands on her lap– strange little limbs, childlike, with four fingers each, the middle finger a stump. I then realized why I could see her across the crowd and not her neighbors sitting to one side. She sat  on a wheelchair, which gave her extra height.

And then I figured out why she had caught my eye. She hadn’t fallen asleep like I’d imagined, hadn’t nodded off—she was listening to music on her phone, and the slow, focused rhythm of  her head had drawn me to her.

As the train sped from one station to another emptying as it went, the head picked up pace and her face broke into smiles. By the time she pressed a button and wheeled herself out of the train at the station just before mine, I was fascinated.

I wanted to walk out and follow her, find out her story—who she lived with and where, what was her voice like, what she did for a living.

A week after, I still want those answers…and being a writer, I would do what I imagine most writers do—supply the answers myself, flesh out this woman in a story.

Have you passed by a stranger you could not forget, for whatever reason? What did you do to satisfy your curiosity?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks for all your replies everyone. It feels good to know I’m not the only curious writer out there.

  • Andy Barnes says:

    I have MS & use a power chair. I can talk & joke with all kinds of people who would have been scared to talk to me when I was ambulatory.

  • Beautiful story! I can totally relate to this, too, because I have been haunted by strangers before and have had to make up their stories in order to (partially) satisfy my curiosity about them.

  • Oh it is so good to read that other people make up stories all the time. It is our curiosity and I think for me Love of people. Great post.

  • I LOVE people watching so I’m always seeing someone who catches my eye. I write about them in my notebook and use them as a character in a story 🙂


  • PaulaSHx says:

    Yes, i’m always doing it. My biggest inspirations are either strangers, funny things that happen in public places, wild dreams I have or people who puzzle me. Some people just deserve to have a written story. 🙂

  • recoverythrumylens says:

    Yes, this happens to me often when I’m photographing and I take their picture when they interest me…you can see and read about one that I just posted…:)

  • nicolepyles says:

    I can relate! Sometimes people just catch you and you just know they have a story to tell. I have totally been there!

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