art, Dekalb, Fiction, Short Story, Trains

The Train Goes By (A Short Story)

                The train went by and the rattle and roll of the wheels on the track scar my clean, still mind.

“I actually don’t want to be part of any kind of organized political party or movement. I don’t want the demarcation lines of a political outfit keeping me from acknowledging truth I see in places that are not quite kosher politically.”

She kept talking and I listened. I liked to hear her speak. She had a voice that was beautifully high pitched and punctuated by the lightest of lisps. Without even thinking she was holding my hand as the train went by. She was a sweet person.

“Nothing bothers me more than a guy who will go on and on about some political topic and not stop for one minute and ask a woman what she thinks about it. I mean all that liberal shit if fine, and you know I am no Sean Hannity, but sometimes you liberal men (not you of course, you are so sweet and you listen) really just think you are Allah’s gift to the world and that bitches are just going to fall over themselves to fuck you after your reading of Marxist poetry. I mean UGH…We like the activism and the socialism, but come on…don’t be a douche while denouncing general douchery. You know what mean?”

I said I did, and I really did mean that I did, but my attention had been caught by a young woman in black tights walking into a café across the street. She had light brown hair cut to her neck and a cute round face. She had a nice figure, small but curvy, and I could not help it, my brain started writing a poem. For some reason I cannot see a beautiful woman without associating it with poetry. I’m not the type that will write a poem like “oh your rear end was like a heart turned upside down” or some shit like that. No, more often than not when I saw a woman who I felt attracted too (and this was not a small category as I find beauty in almost every person I see) I would think of something else that attracted me in a similar manner. You see attraction is not always just about sexual fixation or lust; it is often about a feeling of literally being pulled towards something, and that something bringing up connections to other feelings and other attractions that hold my mind in thrall. On this occasion I saw the young woman and I began to think of flowers. Not just general flowers in a pot or a field mind you, but the type of flowers that a fauvist painter would dream up after a night drinking wine out on the porch with his friends. Those flowers that seem unfortunately unreal, but also accessible in their colors and shapes. Because when you see those flowers in paintings you are not recognizing a blossom you have seen before, but a blossom that you have imagined, and shapes that occur to you in daydreams or fleeting fancies. The type of shapes that come into being when you crumple a piece of paper and admire it for its own strange beauty, or when you look into the sky and see a cloud change from one form to the next. It is not a permanent type of shape, or really even quantifiable or feasible. It is sort of like half remembering a shape you once saw in shadow, or from an odd angle, a short reflection of the Platonic metaphysics, but in this case the ideal shape was not an end unto itself.

By the time I had finished the poem in my head the woman had walked out again with her cup of coffee and was sipping it contentedly and smiling to herself about something. Just like that she was out of my life forever. Not that this fact bothered me. Most everything we experience in life is only for a moment, or only once. Life is not made for lasting set pieces or objects. It is a moving thing, and we quickly turn the page from one experiential sentence to the next.

She was talking again and this time I was able to pay better attention.

“I just enjoy walking places sometimes. I know it seems a little weird to drive somewhere in order to find a place to walk, but where we live it really is not set up for that. Down here in town I always feel like I am seeing new things, and I have the option to just go into a place and maybe order a lunch or buy a pretty hat or scarf. That is if I have money! I do today though, babe, so don’t worry. You want to stop anywhere? I was thinking of going over to the used clothing store on the corner. Want to come?

I told her to go ahead and that I was going to get myself a coffee (more likely a hot chocolate, but actually saying you wanted that instead of a coffee sounds just a little bit off-puttingly childish) at the café and I would stay there and wait for her to be done with her shopping. My friend agreed and gave me a hug. She went to buy something pretty for herself, and I went to add on a few more unneeded calories.

The door to the café was heavy, and it made a sort of vacuum suction noise when I finally got it open. It was almost as though I was opening up some giant Tupperware case that had some leftovers from ganja stoked night out with the bohemians. It was a good kind of musty scent, and I loved the feeling of potential mixed with poverty laced comfort. I went to the counter and ordered a hot chocolate. The barista asked me if I wanted whipped cream. I did. I went over to the orange couch by the door and sat there. It was quiet this time of day, and only a few middle aged hermit looking types were around, eating vegan lunches or at least drinking some clean free water from a clear plastic cup. I picked up a newspaper I found on the table and opened it to where the last reader had left off. It was something about college athletics that I could care less about, but they were words and I liked filling empty moments with words not matter what the context or content.

I finished the sports story and went on to the editorial section. Before I got started on those articles though the barista came over and handed me my hot chocolate. It was pleasantly warm feeling in my hand, but still far too hot form me to drink. I often liked to buy hot drinks and let them cool to lukewarm before I took a sip. Just another strange idiosyncrasy of mine. I put the paper down and looked out the window for my friend. I knew she would be another 5 minutes or so, but I liked seeing people walk by until a face I recognized came into my field of vision. I did this for a while, just people watching, and then before I realized it I was waking up from a short nap. I had fallen asleep in the chair. I shook myself awake. I had been asleep only for a moment or so. I wondered how many dreams had filled that time?

I saw my friend walking towards me from about a half a block away. I got out of the chair and left the café with my drink and I was walking towards her hoping to meet her half way when I heard the sound again of a train coming through. The tracks bisected the down town area diagonally, and when the train came through you were stuck on one side until it had passed on by. The gates fell and the train roared past me going much faster than I had expected it would. It had a lot of containers with foreign languages written along the side so I assumed it was a cross country freighter. That meant I would have to wait at least ten minutes for it to pass. Through the gap between the cars as they went by I saw flashes of my friend standing and waiting on her side. The train was loud, and it scarred my clean, still mind.


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