I miss them already. Despite the freezing cold snow and the nipping air, we had a lovely Christmas break. As I inspect my child, now grown with children of her own, holding tickets back to their home, longing envelopes me. Hoards of people push past, unaware of my pain, on their own schedules and heading toward different trains, talking and texting on their cell phones. My family boards, time as if in slow-motion, and motions goodbye until I see them again. I can’t do anything but wave, a fake smile upon my face as my heart breaks, and a flood of sadness washes over me.
My house, filled with laughter and family just the day before, will return to stillness and neatness once I pull into the driveway. The wheels grind on the track, creating sparks that fall like shooting stars, and they speed away and off into the distance. I stand and stare as the train, along with my child and grandchildren thunders out of sight. A piercing whistle blows out, echoing against the high ceiling of the building. I was going to miss it. The whistle startled me, causing me to panic even more. The combination of heat and anxiety soaked my handkerchief with sweat.
I stood at the ticket booth, stress ebbing away at my calm facade. Thad such a tight schedule for my day, planned down to the minute, and somehow I let time get the best of me. Rushing onto the platform, suitcase wheels pounding against the concrete floor of the station, I ran toward my train. I could feel my heart beating in my ears, my breathing more and more labored with every step I took and my legs felt like they would give way at any second. Another train whistle just ahead of me shrilled and I attempted to pick up my already sprinting pace.
My eyes on the verge of tears at that point, my body unable to go any faster, I an. I had to get to the dinner with my family, I just had to. I’d missed too many before that, and I couldn’t miss this one. I neared closer to the slowly moving train, trying and failing to reassure myself that I would make it in time. “Please, wait! | beg of you, stop the train! ” My cries rang out, responded to by a few concerned and annoyed stares from passersby and a continually moving train. One or two passengers sitting by the windows took notice of my stressed exterior and quick pace, but they couldn’t do anything to help me, the train too far gone.
The train picked up more and more speed, leaving the station and venturing out, leaving me behind. I stare at the train as it rumbles into the distance. I stopped, defeated. The thought of missing another family dinner made me sick to my stomach. My brain seemed unable to comprehend that I remained in the station, and the train had went off on its journey. Thad to sit down. Resting on a worn, wooden bench, head in sweaty hands, I mentally reviewed my day. Waking up late, finding myself unable to get a cab, forgetting item after item at my home, and then missing the train.
My only solace that I had some change for the pay phone, to let my family know that I would not be making it to dinner for the fourth time that month. Tears welled in my eyes and my throat felt like it was closing. It’s no big deal, I told myself, I will see them eventually. But I missed them so. “Miss? ” A man’s voice spoke up from next to me. I slowly lifted my head, taking time to inspect the figure besides me. The voice belonged to a man, shadowing over me like an oak. And sturdy like one, too. He wore a sophisticated looking suit and tie, and looked as if he belonged in a business meeting of some sort.
His eyes a stormy grey with hints of blue, now clouded with concern. “Miss, do you need assistance? ” I gave a small, sad smile and nodded my head, my hair falling out of my bun and over my eyes. Afraid that I would break down if I spoke, I shook my head, my smile falling. He sat down next to me, the bench creaking in protest, and dropped his heavylooking briefcase down on the ground with a thud. “I’m James. It’s none of my business, but may I ask why you’re upset? ” I looked into his eyes and made a rash decision to trust this stranger. “I’m Susan.
I’ve missed my train,” I sighed. The man – James – inspected me with his storm cloud eyes. “Well, why don’t you just get the next one? ” he wondered aloud, making me feel unintelligent, as if I could not have thought of that myself, although I knew that his intentions didn’t lie there. I shook my head. “The next train to Newark departs in three hours. Even if I took that one, I’d still arrive too late for the dinner. ” My family would have left for their own homes by then, the laughter and fun replaced by the softness and quiet of my grandmother’s house when empty.
Almost as quiet as my apartment, when I returned late at night and greeted by nobody. Or my work space, when people walked by my cubicle, in which I ate lunch alone. But whenever I got the chance to visit family, I jumped on it. He searched for something invisible off in the distance, then nodded, deciding something. “I’ll stay with you. My meeting isn’t even that important, anyway. ” And as much as I told him he didn’t have to, he insisted. After some back-and-forth, I finally agreed to let him stay with me.
“So, James, where do you come from? I asked, and not twenty minutes later I had learned all about him; that he, too, lived in Ridgefield, that he worked as a businessman, and much more. After that, I shared with him, and we got to talking for quite a while. An hour turned into two, time feeling meaningless, before we decided to take our conversation over to the nearest coffee house, the strong smell drifting up into our noses, and we stayed there talking until late at night. After that, I scribbled down my number for him to call, and he helped me get a cab home.
On the ride to my apartment, I couldn’t help but smile, thinking of James and our long talk. I smile to myself, watching my family on the train. James takes my hand in his, admiring the ring on my finger, as bright as the sun and as beautiful as a red rose. “What’s making you smile, darling? ” he smiles along with me, a questioning look in his eye. “No reason,”| shrug, and my smile forms into a grin. “Just dwelling on the past. ” I turn back to the ever-shrinking train and give one last wave before we leave the station. I can’t help but think to myself, Thank God I missed my train.