The sky above Pemmington Station is wet and gray. There isn’t a soul on this platform, save for me. I think for a moment that the train might barrel on past. The conductor will overlook me and see no reason to stop. It will be like all those other times — circumstances being the only difference. It will be rid of me, and the passengers and the city will be all the better for it. But I need so desperately to leave.
The breeze flirts with the lilacs nearby, wafting their scent into the air. In that instant I am taken back to my sophomore year, to Caterina. That rusted blonde hair that rode waves down her back, hung in curled ribbons that fell carelessly in front of her eyes — those polished mahogany gems that drew me to her in the first place. They spoke of the duality of life; admitted to the sadness and the pain, but promised its beauty lay in wait if only one might see past the rest.
I think back to the impromptu dance routines on her driveway, Her clumsy, excited spasms to music that was as poison to my discerning ears. But she was so spirited, so refreshing and without inhibition. How alien she seemed to me, incurably nervous introvert that I was. If there was ever another soul on this planet to withdraw me from my shell — even if only for a moment — for certain it would have been her. How I’d damned myself so by keeping behind those walls.
I think about the husband and child she has. The beach house. The slow weekends spent listlessly in love down by the shore line… I forget myself, I think so damned much.
To ease the transition back into my patient waiting for the train, I remove the MP3 player from my jacket pocket. I exhale the scent of lilacs from my nose, and swat at it as if I’m chasing away a bothersome fly. I insert the headphones, and set the device to shuffle.
There are film scores, mostly. Lamentations of strings, bold declarations of brass and drums. They help to reset my concentration. They settle my nerves as would a flask of pear brandy to a decades-long drunk, or a shot of heroin to a junky. I can function again.
After an arpeggio comes to a close, without warning, the rock steady beat of 1970s England curb stomps my concentration. I look at the screen, see that it is “Mirror in The Bathroom” by The English Beat. I seem to remember removing the song from my playlist, but here it is. And here come the traces of Amandine.
We were clandestine, and as such could never last. She was as alien as I. Where I wore suits and smoked from a pipe, she adorned her lithe frame with leather and denim, and smoked from pipes of a different sort. I quoted Aristotle, and she recited Joe Strummer. We were different in almost every conceivable way, but in being so we were drawn to one another.
We met on the dance floor in some shitty dive on the beach front. I swayed to the calming wiles of Reggae, and she thrashed to the pulse-maddening accusations of Punk Rock. Later, under the spell of Victor Ruggiero’s sultry, seductive crooning, we fell hopelessly in love. But we were a daydream. She hadn’t the desire for sentiment, and I was a beast born with that saccharine syrup running through my veins. I rotted her teeth, and she made hollow my heart.
The song comes to a close, but Amandine never fully leaves me. Her died blue hair, standing on end and sharpened with egg-whites… her uneasy eyes that changed color with the weather; crystalline pools of hazel and green, only later to transmute to glistening gray oceans…
I pull the plugs from my ears, and in one desperate gesture I hurl the device onto the tracks. May the train grind it to dust upon arrival.
And the train does arrive. To my surprise it slows to a stop, and I can tell my neurosis to quiet itself for a moment. I board, taking a seat next to one of the many windows. It is empty, save for a scant peppering of riders in the cars behind and ahead of me.
The stale air in the car recalls no fonder times; no days spent in love, nor nights wasted in lost affections. There is nothing to remind me of older days, to which I am hopelessly bound. What lies ahead is a clean slate built with steel and glass, looming on the horizon and born with the crowning of the sun. There is naught behind me but what I leave to the past.
May I rinse my hands of it completely. May what comes tomorrow haunt the innumerable yesterdays to be.