Prose

Until the Lights Peek Around the Bend

On the grimy platform, a man is leaning a bit on a battered up cane. He’s wearing a faded purple Joan Baez cap and a gray beard. Around his neck is a colorful knit scarf to keep off some of the cold fall chill that awaits him above ground at the other side of his journey. The scarf is tossed carelessly over his shoulder and hanging beneath it is a worn VA hospital ID card. Vietnam, I’d guess.

A few people are reading books. One is a biography of an Asian lady I’ve never heard of. Her face on the cover doesn’t help to connect the name. A guy reads a book and I can only make out the word “bloods” on the cover.

Most are glued to their phones. Their necks crane down slowly reversing our evolution into upright standing primates.

People shuffle around, waiting, and grumbling.

An eerie sound starts echoing through the underground. A tiny man is playing one of those Chinese upright violins. (An erhu, as I’d later google — a two stringed bowed instrument, more specifically a “spike fiddle” says Wikipedia.) The mournful tone goes through most ears. It seems to reverberate a little in the empty heads of the drones standing around inattentive before it goes out the other ear slightly amplified.

This isn’t Switzerland. The trains here don’t run like clockwork. In these parts, the train comes when it pleases.

So you wait.

Most people, most of the time, wait impatiently. I do it too. I’ve got somewhere to be, maybe just home, and don’t have time for this. The desire to be somewhere other than here fills the platform louder than the man’s violin. The infrequent sound of coins dropped into his hat joins in the discord.

Sometimes — I couldn’t give you the odds — this scene can be a moment. It’s a choice, though most often I’m not being mindful enough to recognize it’s an option.

There’s time until you’ll see the lights of the train peek around the bend. There’s time to appreciate this all, even if just for a second. To be silent, empty of desire, standing in a cacophony of longing.