23 May 2014

Strangers behind a train

It was another long day at the office. How many mornings had she gotten in before it was light outside? She could not remember. Life had turned into a cycle of getting up obscenely early, working longer and longer shifts, and getting home, just to eat something before she crashed, only to repeat the process the next day and the next and the next...

She was glad to get out early. The weather that morning had been indeterminate, but she braved it anyway, wearing only a hoodie on a day that it may rain (is that not every day in Seattle, after all?). Of course it rained. A lot. It was coming down lightly as she started out from the office toward the bus stop, but by the time she reached the train tracks it was coming down pretty hard. Within a few minutes her shoulders and head were completely wet. She doffed her hood and let the rain fall on her head, reveling in the rare heavy rain that her city gave to her.

The barriers dropped as she approached the tracks from the west, and she looked down to see if the oncoming train were visible. She sighed as she saw the freight engines in the distance to the south. She counted three engines--a long train, then. The train came in slowly from the south, blowing its whistle loud and long as it approached the street crossing. Then something odd happened. The train started to slow when it was about halfway across the roadway, and came to a complete stop in the middle of the tracks that cut through the road. By now a small crowd of commuters had gathered behind the stopped train.

She glanced around. There was an assortment of persons waiting, in various states of agitation, staring at the stopped train. After a minute or two, one of the men let out a grunt of frustration and started across the train tracks. He climbed over the links that connected two of the boxcars and continued down the street. A couple of younger 20-somethings, obviously coworkers based on the snatches of conversation she heard from them, speculated whether they should do the same. The girl pointed out she would have trouble climbing over the connectors in the shoes she was wearing, and the guy conceded and they continued to mill around the barrier's flashing lights.

As the crowd waited, a taller figure approached the train tracks from the west. She watched him with mild curiosity. Most of the people waiting for the stopped train were standing stoicly in the rain, not looking at one another, waiting in the Seattle standard-issue awkward silence. Something about the man approaching the stopped train made her think he would not wait so passively as the rest. He took in the sight as he got the spot where most of the persons stood and a grin split his face.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'This is probably my fault, for all the trains I tagged in the past.'

She looked up at the sound of his voice, a pitch and timbre that struck her as both foreign and familiar. Their eyes met and she grinned back at him.

'I knew there had to be a reason for this,' she said to him.

A few people looked at the two of them as they laughed, and a train whistle blew in the distance. She looked north and saw the lights of a second train. The train heading south approached slowly, and she counted the engines on this one. Only two engines this time. A shorter train.

She was soaked through. Her hair was dripping down the back of her neck and her feet felt damp in her Chucks. The stranger who apologised continued to smile at her, and she could not help but smile back. His smile was so genuine and infectious.

This is going to be interesting, she thought.

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