Monday, March 7, 2011

The Lady Waiting for the Train

Mondays are cruel. I didn't know how cruel until I saw the lady waiting for the train. We were all waiting to go to Chicago with nowhere to go until the lady appeared. She gave us somewhere to go with our IPODS and phones and cold cold cold breath. Chicago had given up the ghost on spring and decided to torment all of us some more in our scarfs and synthetic leather jackets and no gloves. Gloves are for winter and it was March. So no gloves. That's the way I thought anyway.

So the lady waiting for the train was on the opposite platform. Trains come and go to Chicago. We were going. The other train was coming from. Usually we were on the opposite platform waiting for the train to Chicago. But not today on this cold grey windswept Monday that looked like snow. There had been an announcement. INBOUND TRAIN ARRIVING ON THE SOUTH PLATFORM TO CHICAGO. We all heard it and trudged across the crossing and stood with our backpacks and lunches and briefcases and handbags and purses old and young and middle alike. Except for the lady.

The lady stood on the opposite platform looking West away from Chicago. She smoked a cigarette and stared at all of us staring back at her. We had a group staring contest. The lady had a hood on and a scarf wrapped around her forehead and smoked a brown cigarette that might have been a cigarillo. Nobody knew. Nobody cared. We were all busy freezing and waiting for the train. So was the lady. But we knew. We knew she was on the wrong side. Somebody could have yelled across the tracks, HEY ARE YOU GOING TO CHICAGO? THE TRAIN IS COMING ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TRACKS. We could have  done that, but nobody did.

Instead we took silent bets on how stupid was the lady. Was she really stupid or just a little stupid. She looked like she had already had children. The child years were over for this lady. She wore high boots a little out of fashion. She had on leopard something around her shoulders. Otherwise she looked Midwestern all browns and heavy makeup. She stared at us and smoked. We stared at her and waited. The lady looked down the tracks. We waited. Did she know? Maybe she wasn't even waiting for the train. Then the lady stubbed out her cigarette on the wall of the station and stepped inside a bar. She stood in the door like a pasty manikin. We waited. Maybe she wasn't going to Chicago. We heard the train.

The train came around the bend and got larger and larger. We watched the lady who watched us. We waited. We knew there was a point of no return for the lady. Once the train was in the station it would block the crosswalk. The lady would be stuck. Still, we weren't sure she was even going to Chicago. She looked very composed in her warm bar while we froze our asses off. But then she looked and saw the train rolling into the station and we knew the lady was going to Chicago.

She tried to get out of the door and run to the crossing. But the train rumbled ahead and screeched to a halt and became a wall between us and the station. We all got on the warm train and I found a seat and began eating my hot dog I had been saving. I looked out the window and saw the lady. She was staring at the train while it pulled out and it's too bad nobody told her the train was leaving on the South platform. But it was Monday and nobody cares about Mondays. 

Rocket Man will blast off April 26th

Books by William Hazelgrove