The fulcrum of their droll lives fruitlessly lay at the train station, where they escaped their immutable domestic lives to earn a living. Fuel. Every day. The trains were certainly alluring; they were the epitome of ‘the journey’. An inert and lethargic journey.
The spot next to the metal bench on the right side of the platform was Eleanor’s. She sat there, watching the stringless puppets every day until their fatalistic return to the opposite platform.
Today, Eleanor sat next to the far right bench on platform four instead of three, just to live life on the edge. Her glasses sat on her nightstand at home as she watched the blurry faces of people go by. Each person was nothing more than a smudge in a picture book and Eleanor was the reader who could see, with perfect clarity, the predetermined lives of each character. The trains passively trudged on and the smudges raced to and from work. The presence of their false hopes, ambitions, desires, and schemes wafted in the air like sickening second-hand smoke, and Eleanor suffocated in the midst of it all.
“…assessment of core competency and…”
“You lift, bro?”
Only the crushing weight of existence.
“That’s a really good idea, boss!”
The train horn blared. Eleanor jumped, her breathing becoming shallow. She remembered the awful droning of the truck’s horn swiftly crescending into a deafening screech. The tyres shrieked in vain warning. Her bones screamed in response. Bits of glass. Mangled metal.
Suddenly, a dull ache arose in Eleanor’s back. She shifted restlessly in her wheelchair. With the quiver of an empty chip packet and dried leaves, the train zipped past the platform, leaving only Eleanor, the deliriously jubilant janitor, and the ringing in her ears. Eleanor sat on her wheelchair, as useless as wrapping paper tied off with a silk bow.
That’s probably what they thought of her at the office anyway: a useless decoration in the way of the gifts. The taxes remained unfilled while a pathetic nuisance was being helped to the toilet. She did them a favour by getting out of their way. Now they wouldn’t have to silently curse every time they made a terse apology for tripping over this monstrosity of metal.
Eleanor’s gaze meandered to a new flurry of smudges flooding out of a carriage.
“Scuse me miss, would you happen to have the time?” a man asked as he emerged from the train.
Time? Time is a duplicitous, sadistic creature that lures you into the promise of tomorrow, dangling a future in front of you, tempting you to chase that future until one day, you chase it straight down to hell. Look at these idiots, chasing, chasing, chasing…
“Yep.” Eleanor plastered on a rictus grin, pointing her finger. “Just on that giant board up there.”
The man’s eyes widened as he registered the time and she watched him blend into the crowd of smudges scampering up the stairs. Their haste reminded Eleanor of when time was a fleeting hummingbird whose beauty she could only catch for a transient moment. Now, time was the leech that came with the flood.
The flurry of rats had left the station. Eleanor watched, with a subdued intrigue, the leaves twitch ever so slightly in the weak breeze. The stray pigeon feather may as well have been photographed in place. If there were so much as a fly, Eleanor would have revered its beauty. She counted the loose gravel. Her senses were heightened as she sat in the fixed painting that was the station. Eleanor wrapped her arms around herself, slumping further into her wheelchair…until she heard a faint rumbling.
The clock read 15:29:00. At the sight of the train coming around the corner, the harsh cracks that etched the scowl on Eleanor’s face softened into a hint of a smile. She unlocked her brakes and wheeled herself to the end of the platform. The train carried with it a bracing breeze that tousled her hair and animated the rogue chip packets and bird feathers. From the furthermost carriage capered a small girl who disappeared into her backpack.
There is so much that Eleanor didn’t know about the hug. Was it a… guess-what-happened-at-school-today hug or was it an… I-needed-to see-your-face-today hug? Or was it a hug… just because? All she knew was that the hug was not like the one-armed, forced hug in which her former employees trapped her during an unfortunate run-in on the weekend. Hugging her was not like two puzzle pieces neatly slotting together; it was actually quite awkward for a small girl to hug her wheelchair-bound mother. But her hug was always a perfect fit… even though her arms couldn’t reach behind Eleanor’s back.