By: Laura Wirpsza
Song: Ashes and Wine
Artist: A Fine Frenzy
Album: One Cell in the Sea
Ladies and Gentlemen, the next train to Washington D.C. departing from Penn Station New York will be boarding in 15 minutes. Please, have your tickets and identification ready for inspection. Thank you.
The speaker crackled loudly over the bustle of the train station. Passengers stood or sat on the floor, lined along the glass seating area marked for Amtrak. In the seating area, sat a man with strawberry hair and bright blue eyes. He was in his mid thirties, his favorite book rested on his lap. He had lost count of how many times he had reread A Tale of Two Cities. But it always gave him a sense of peace.
Perhaps because it was the first book Samantha had ever lent him. His leather briefcase and suitcase stack near him.
Her words were ringing loudly over the bustle and the words on the page.
Jack had come to New York to make amends and find answers to questions he did not understand. Samantha and him had been so happy. He could never forget running into the timid top tenth grader who lived next door. A crooked smile brought back the first memory. Samantha had been searching for her cat that had not been seen for three days. Being a young teenager, he had been very reluctant to assist her.
But after Samantha sputtered several threats of telling all his buddies about his hobby of running around the side yard in his birthday suit or how he was always cooking with his mom, Jack had dropped his basketball and helped her break under his front porch. The stupid cat was lying in a patch of sunlight, upside down fast asleep purring loudly. That was the day they became friends.
During college and their early twenties they saw each other sporadically on the holidays and over summer break. She had her scattered boyfriends and he had his girlfriend. But in the end those people never lasted. But Samantha, somehow Samantha would always just know when to show up. A pat on the back and a couple get over her, it’s not the end of the world worked every time. And the hurt, he was feeling vanished, instantly. They would get back to talking about the first time they met and the stupid disappearing cat. They should have called it Houdini. The cat knew too. Especially, whenever Samantha called his latest girlfriend a complete backstabbing bimbo. He would hole up in his room but he caught the cat staring up at his room with a knowing look. A few days later, there would be a knock. He would open the door. Samantha would be standing there with that look. Then they would apologize at the same time. They would laugh. The cat would peek his head out and Jack swore that cat would wink at him before scampering off.
Then one day in August, he had been taking out the trash. He heard a shrill of laughter from next door. Samantha was playing with her younger cousins, chasing them around the backyard waving her arms like a monster. The kids laughed as they ran away, her smile had been brilliant. Short black hair plastered her high cheeks stretched in a smile. She had been wearing a red tied died t-shirt with shorts. The kids had somehow gotten hold of the hose, and she had shrieked and run into the house. The kids forgot the hose and chased after her. The backdoor slammed shut with a bang. And Jack was in love.
Attention passengers the Penn Station New York to Washington D.C. train will be now boarding on Track…..
The speaker crackled loudly announcing his train that would now be boarding. He gathered his belongings, shoving the novel into his briefcase. He headed towards the escalator to take him to the platform. And waited. He glanced around. This would be one of those times, where she would just show up. Then he was at the platform. The briefcase was stored in the overhead bin and his suitcase in the luggage compartment. He took a seat.
Attention passengers this is the Penn Station New York to Washington D.C. train stopping at…..
A flurry of other memories played in his mind as he watched another train pull into the station on the other track. His confession. Their first kiss. Their first date. Second date. Going to his sister’s wedding. Samantha’s grandfather’s funeral. Then Samantha didn’t get the job. He took his dream job in Washington D.C. Their first fight. It had been the first time he made her cry. The silence. Waiting. Not picking up her call. The break up.
He had broken it off because he thought whatever they had, was no longer working. Calmly, Samantha had agreed. So they had agreed to be friends. Then he left.
Samantha was the real reason for his visit to New York. He had been so sure about asking her. She had been his best friend for so long, he lost count how many years. He had always known she was the one. Jack had known it had been a huge risk. They hadn’t spoken in a few months. However, he had never expected her fiancé to open the door and call back for her. His fist almost flew. Instead, he shook the man’s hand with a smile. Samantha and Jack had gone for a walk in Central Park. There she told him about her wedding in two months. How she was very happy now. Then what she said next shocked him; spooked him to the bone.
I know who I am now. And I am ok with that. I hope you can find who you are someday.
Somehow, over the years, Samantha had gotten frustrated and grown away from him. And he had never noticed. They had been so tightly knitted together and yet, Samantha had slipped right through his fingers. She had always been right next to him. Jack glanced away from the window as the train pulled away from the station. The seat next to him was empty.
Laura Wirpsza: Better in Color or on Fire. Warnings: Bored Mad Scientist.