Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fiction: The Train Car

Tom is the winner from last week's Truth or Fiction challenge.  He correctly guessed that "Breakup" and "Thanksgiving" were true and "Cats" and "First Date" are fiction.  Tom, you now get to choose if you want a feature written about you or if you want to choose the topic for a week.  Congrats.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

My commute is typically the least memorable part of my day.  I get on the train, sit for an hour, get off the train and walk to work.  It’s the same every day and I try to waste as little brain space on it as possible.  This morning is different.  Someone new is waiting on the platform.  A girl.  I only notice her because she’s standing in my usual spot.  I walk a little farther to the north so that I can pretend to watch for the train.  I’m really looking at her.  She stands there dressed for work.  Business casual.  It’s a warm day, so she’s wearing black pants with a pink sweater set minus the sweater.  She holds a paperback, alternating between reading it and checking for the train.  With her head down, her dark hair falls into her face and obscures her from my view.  I wait patiently.  I know what comes next.  She looks up and flips her hair out of her face with a quick turn of her head.  She glances towards the train and then glances in my direction.  Her warm blue eyes don’t quite find mine, but I’m not looking for recognition.  I turn away so as not to stare.  It’s probably too late.  I’ve been staring.  Somehow I feel safe when listening to my iPod.  It’s like I don’t quite exist in the world because I have my own soundtrack that no one else can hear.  Unfortunately, I still exist. 

I’m startled by a loud rumbling as the train approaches.  I look up and she is tucking her book into her handbag.  She confidently looks up and moves toward the nearest door.  I slowly follow.  As she rises to the first step, I fall in behind her.  The train’s brakes give and it suddenly lurches forward.  She falls back.  I reach up and put my hand on the small of her back to steady her.  She flails backwards with her hands and finds my shoulder.  The train stops again.  We hold this pose for a few brief seconds so that the judges can admire our perfect form.  I gently push her back up onto the first step.  She looks over her shoulder, smiles and says, “Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome,” I say as I gently push her back onto her feet and follow her up the stairs.

“Nice catch, that could have been a nasty fall.”

I immediately regret saying, “You can thank my ninja-like reflexes.”

She laughs and motions for me to sit down next to her.  As I take my seat, she offers her hand and says, “I’m Cecilia.  Thanks for catching me.”

“I’m James.  You’re welcome, Cecilia.”

“Also, no jokes about how I’m breaking your heart or shaking your confidence.”

“Okay, but just as long as you remember I like my martini shaken, not stirred,” I say as another wave of regret strikes.

She’s kind enough to laugh and we’re suddenly distracted by a scruffy looking man who has decided to begin preaching to the train car.  He shouts, “Impure!  I feel the impurity on this train.”  He begins walking in our direction and Cecilia and I exchange a worried glance.  He continues, “All of you are impure and you must seek purity.  Find something pure and use it to guide you.”  He points at us and declares, “Like the love of this young couple.  Pure, new, real.”

I interrupt him, “Actually, we’re not in love.  We just met so we’re probably not the best example.”

“Even better,” he replies, “This young couple who just met is starting from a place of purity.  Nothing has transpired between them to taint their views.  They’re optimistic.  Hopeful.  Pure.  Use this as your guide.”

“Where is the Conductor,” I asked to no one and everyone.

“This couple is possibility.  They have the possibility to remain pure and pursue true pureness in their lives,” he announces to the train.

At this point, I’ll try anything to interrupt him, “I’m pretty sure that pureness is not a word.”

“I think it is a word,” Cecilia says.

I look at her incredulously and she smiles back, very pleased with herself.  Before I can say anything more the preacher replies, “Of course pureness is a word.  It’s the state you’re living in right now with that beautiful young lady and it’s what we’re all striving for.”

“I like this guy,” Cecilia says, trying not to laugh.

I stand, turn to the preacher and say, “Listen, I appreciate you using our pureness as an example but now that everyone on this car has something to shoot for, maybe you should move on to another car that doesn’t have as much purity as we do.”

“I think we should hear him out,” Cecilia chimed in.

The preacher looked shocked, “The arrogance!  Any purity you might have had earlier is gone!  It has been replaced by hubris and arrogance!  Repent!”

“Hubris.  Good word,” Cecilia added.

I could feel my face turning red with anger and shouted at the man, “I don’t care about purity, I just want you to leave so I can flirt with this girl!”

The train car got suddenly quiet as I realized what I had just said.  A few people chuckled behind me.  I looked at Cecilia and she smiled broadly, clearly enjoying the moment.  The silence broken by the Conductor rushing up to me and the preacher and asking, “Is there a problem here?”

“No, sir.  Just having a conversation with this young man on my way to the next car,” the preacher responded as he walked away.

I sat down.  I couldn’t bring myself to look at Cecilia.  When I did she was still smiling, “Does that mean you’re going to ask me for my number?”

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