He addressed her again. An “excuse me!” was bellowed into the circular hole meant to carry one’s voice to the other side of the partition. Still nothing. He had been waiting for her attention for five minutes, hoping to purchase a ticket for the next metro. The machine around the corner and down to the left was not accepting cash, and the street-level machine was occupied by a homeless man, and the pee he was using to write on it.
He took a deep breath, a practice he had recently taken on. On the onset of conscious breath-taking he imagined the deeper the breath, would soon lead to the fewer in need. Again, he was wrong. He was taking ten to twenty deep breaths an hour. For one moment it all felt lighter, and then seconds later all the heavier. Relativity. Its a science. A science that zoomed in on his every move. When one good thing happened, BOOM, something bad. When he was hungry no food to be found, when satiated, too much. For awhile he decided to only sleep with blondes, suddenly the entire world turned brunette. After three weeks of that he switched back, and soon realized he wanted blondes.
“LADY!” he finally yelled. She slowly turned towards him unamused. She blinked slowly at as if her eyelids were molasses. Her tone was harsh: “sir, you can yell all you want, ain’t gonna make the train faster.”
“I don’t care when the train comes, I just need a ticket,” He pushed three dollars through the open cubby, thought about saying thank you, but decided against it. He walked to the screen displaying times, to find that every train had an “unavailable” estimated arrival. One could go back and ask what she knew, but, no… I should have thanked her, he thought. He pushed himself further down the station but with no luck, all other monitors were broken due to the explosions of chaos that erupted throughout the night. The city’s team had won the World Series; city officials, police, and public structures had lost to the “fans.”
Bright side, no one else was down here. The car fires, the broken windows, the screaming was evidently too hard to walk away from. He noticed an empty bench not far off, it was one of those metal benches that appear welcoming. They are always green, red, or blue. This one was green. But what the color did for the eyes was far off to what it accomplished on your backside. The metal zigged and zagged creating little ovals or openings through the bench. Sitting here long enough would leave its imprint. It was better than standing.
Minutes went by, and with no book or phone to pass the time, he reached for his wallet. It had been years since it had been cleaned out. What past ghosts sat between the smooth brown faded leather? What would it say about the last year of his life? What, if anything was accomplished, and where had he been?
The first item found was a ticket for riding the metro without a pass. It was crumpled carelessly. He had no attachment to what it stated, reflecting his overall attitude toward authority. Four one-dollar bills, a ten, and a very old fifty that was bent and misshapen. How could he have a fifty he had yet to spend? The last month was a scramble for cash, and the come-up felt burdensome. How oblivious had he been–asking his sister for help–when it was folded haphazardly in his wallet.
Two old movie tickets, emblems of dates that never saw the light of day, nor a second chance. What was once a neatly rolled joint. It had rips and tears, forcing the weed to crumble and set itself free into the leather lining. His ID, proof of his past success. It plainly stated the address of the apartment he could no longer afford, and the haircut he used to like. It even displayed the man he was once fond of. What a loser, he thought.
Five nickels, two dimes, and one quarter. Cards of women who expected his call, but were clearly too good for him. A coupon for toilet paper. A letter once left on his mailbox, greatly detailing how bad of a neighbor he was. A card from the local deli with holes punched in as evidence to the many turkey subs enjoyed. Only two more before one was finally free. A condom. An insurance card. An expired gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond. Must have been a gift from his mother when his ex moved in.
Two Bank receipts. Notices. Ripped paper. All of it seemed so meaningless, simply suggesting where he had been, what he done, yet devoid of memory. Until he saw it. Two ends were bent back, but he knew what it was before reaching in and unfolding. Her picture. The one she gave him before they fell in love. “Here,” she had whispered. “Proof that someone actually likes you.” Her smile flooded him with laughs gone by and kisses exchanged. His breath grew unconsciously heavy. A flash of the day the picture was taken burst before him–they had hiked up to the city’s water shed, he wanted to show her his favorite view. It was a top the hill he would end up proposing on, next to the pine tree where she would say yes.
A fellow hiker had come upon them kissing, commented on the setting and asked if they had a camera: “this looks like something you may want to remember.” She handed the stranger her phone, and as she stepped back ready to smile, he enveloped her face in his hands and kissed her once more. The picture: proof it had happened. Proof he once found the girl, got the girl, and also lost her.
On the back of the picture, in her childlike scrawl: i carry your heart with me… i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
He turned the picture over again, and again. The words, the girl, the face, the day. How did this picture even exist? The swoosh of the metro found its way down the tunnel, his train was coming. He stood up from the bench, closed his wallet and put the picture in his breast pocket. As the train came to a stop he let the drunks get off. All seats were taken, it didn’t matter, he had no where to go.
The beeping of the doors commenced. He grabbed the picture, let it crumple in his right palm and threw it onto the track just as the doors sealed him in. The girl was long gone, no evidence would bring her back.