A 10 Second Encounter Can Change Everything


I was on the tube the other day and I was sitting in the middle seat of the carriage. I saw a young girl – about 15/16 step through the doors and sit on the seat next to me. As I looked down at my IPod to change a song I noticed her arms. She was wearing a zip up hoodie with the sleeves rolled up to about above her elbows. Her arms had scars going from her wrists all the way up to her forearms. They were very noticeable. This made me start to think about what I know about self-harm. I questioned to myself why she felt so comfortable showing her scars so publically when self-harm is often kept a secret by most people. But then I thought that they were in fact, scars – healed cuts. Perhaps she stopped self-harming for good, or maybe she has accepted that those scars were a part of her now and they represented something significant to her. But this was not the occurrence that initially interested me about this story, nor was this the girl that fascinated me about this story either…

A few stops went by; I was still sitting next to this girl. Let’s call her Lauren. The tube doors open again and another girl got on the carriage. Let’s call her Sofia. Sofia looked the same age as Lauren. She was had jet black short hair and pale skin. She sat in the opposite row to Lauren and me on the very end seat of the row, next to the doors. She looked sad but it wasn’t until after that I actually noticed her.

Exactly one stop after Sofia got on the tube, Lauren got off. It was about a one minute stop. 60 seconds. As the train was slowing down to a stop Lauren proceeded to the double doors right where Sofia was sitting. Lauren put her arm on the pole of the tube to keep her balance right next to Sofia’s face. At that moment I noticed Sofia staring at Lauren’s arm and her scars. Sofia looked up at her with wide eyes and deliberately pretended to roll up her sleeves hoping Lauren would look down. There they were. Cuts. Cuts and scars on her arms too. But Laurent didn’t see, she didn’t see any of this. She got off the tube and continued with her life.

What got me the most about all of this was the fact Sofia’s encounter with Lauren happened in the space of about 10 seconds. In those split seconds it was as if Sofia entered a reality were the only people in the whole universe was only her and Lauren. For 10 seconds she felt safe rolling up her sleeves to reveal her scars to a girl just like her, as if no one else was on the tube. For 1o seconds, she was not alone.

The doors shut and Sofia quickly came back to reality and instantly rolled back down her sleeves and continued to stare at the ground.

To me, Sofia represents the stigma behind mental health which ultimately makes people like her feel alone and isolated, not knowing where to turn. No one should have the feeling of belonging for only 10 seconds, they should have it forever.