As Fond as Coming Home

The steady click of the train over the tracks was a sound that Will knew he would forever remember because each passing click was a step that much closer home.  Will tried counting the clicks but he found that it made him sleepy and there was no way he was going to allow himself to fall asleep this close to home.  His mind traveled nineteen months into the past and although he remembered hating the train station then, he excitedly anticipated the bright glow of the florescent lights, the busy rush of families headed home and the faint smell of ammonia water.

He glanced down at his black, weather beaten boots and remembered the day he was given them.  He hated these boots because they were stiff and had given him blisters.  But now they fit him perfectly.  They were well broken in and encased the contours of his feet as though they had been manufactured specifically for his foot.  Will raised his gaze and could see a strap hanging from his green, canvas duffle bag stuffed in the overhead bin near the front of the car.  After he emptied that bag, it was going to be thrown into the back of his closet, out of sight in the corner behind the long duster that his mother had given him when he left for college in New York.

Will’s eyes lowered from the overhead compartment and met the wandering eyes of an older man seated facing him several rows in front of him.  He did not look away, but the man’s eyes, misty and gray, seemed to be searching for something he could not find.  His coat was ragged and dirty and his oily, silver hair swept his shoulders in long, unwashed swatches.  Will wondered what had taken this man’s youthfulness.  This was a man forced to mature faster than most and Will was curious as to what sort of thing does that to a man.  The last nineteen months had matured Will more than any others.  But he still felt as though he had plenty of life left to be young, to make memories.  To find a wholesome woman named Catherine who he would take to dinner and drink wine with and then giggle with all the way to the theater where they would sit, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, her head snuggled under his arm.  Then maybe after dinner they would meet his sister, Anna and her husband Jack for aperitifs.

The conductor announced the next stop and Will’s brief tangent of thoughts was broken.  The excitement swelled inside him as he prepared to grab his bag and exit his last train of the trip home.  Bright light burst into the cabin as the train exited the darkness of the tunnel and rolled into the station.  The train had been braking for the last several seconds and it was now slowly creeping to a halt.  Will glanced through the window beside him to see if he would recognize anyone there to meet him.  The first thing that caught Will’s gaze was a large green duffle bag slung over the shoulder of a boy of about eighteen.  His boots were black and their glossy polish reflected the overhead lights of the station.  They were laced from his toes to his ankles.  His stare was lifeless and his expression blank, a look not foreign to Will’s memory.

Will’s car passed the boy and continued to the front of the station, where a large mass of people waited to greet those stepping off the train.  There were too many faces to recognize any, but Will clung to the hope that he would be greeted by someone, Evelyn, Anna, or even Uncle George.  He felt his face and wished he would have shaved.  He stood from his seat, felt to make sure his papers were still safe in his breast pocket and nervously strode to remove his duffle bag.  He passed the old man on his way and though they seemingly made eye contact, Will’s smile went unreturned.

The doors of the car opened just as Will was lifting his pack over his shoulder.  As he stepped out of the train and onto the concrete platform he heard a familiar voice shouting his name.  Excitedly he scanned the crowd for Anna’s face, found her over the shoulder of a young businessman with a newspaper and excused himself past.  Anna jumped into his arms and Jack stood with his hand on Anna’s back, smiling at Will.  Anna held tight to Will, but he was able to turn just enough to look over her shoulder down the long corridor of the train station.  He caught a final glimpse of a green canvas duffle bag boarding the train.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Donn on November 23, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    You have my interest and curiosity. Can’t wait to read more.

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