Night Traffic

 

I used to see her at the train station, waiting on the steel bench seats, headphones on, reading a book. I used to see her and wish she’d look up or that she might get on the carriage and sit near, but she was always just waiting. One night in the winter I got off at her station and she was there. Breath puffing clouds up through the streetlight and I walked over, her in a beanie and gloves and reading a book and I sat down on the bench seat, waited. I was all pimples and bad hair, I know I wasn’t anything, but I hoped that something might happen, that there might be some reason for us to talk.

‘Cold isn’t it?’ I said, but I said it so quiet that no one would have heard and then I could hear a muffled hi-hat whispering from beneath her beanie and I sucked in a breath through my teeth. Wringing hands in the pocket of my hoodie. Who was I? I thought. She was wearing black jeans and boots and I was too scared to look up any higher than that and she lit a cigarette, the smell filling the air all around and I turned to the smell and she was looking right at me. Eyes painted black. Staring.

‘What are you doing?’ She asked.

‘Oh me, oh, nothing.’

‘Why are you sitting here?’

‘Oh, I just sat… sorry.’

‘No, don’t be sorry, but there’s seven other seats all down the platform and no one else around, just wondering why you chose to sit there.’

‘Oh…’ I had nothing. ‘I didn’t really think about it, I just sat down.’

She held her stare as she took a long drag, let it leak out her mouth, trailing into the night.

‘What train are you waiting for?’ She asked.

‘Ah, the next one.’

‘When is it?’

‘I don’t know, it’s coming soon I’m pretty sure…’ I leaned forward to see the TV screens.

‘You don’t even know.’ She smiled, her eyes narrowed. ‘You have no idea about the train, do you?’

‘Oh, I don’t know exactly, but…’ I faded, kept looking for the detail on the TV screens, couldn’t make it out. She moved into my line of sight, here eyes moving all round my face.

‘Come on,’ She said, and she stood up, pulled her ear phones out from under her beanie. ‘Come with me.’ She held out her hand.

We walked along the footpath in the night, out through the park and past the abandoned playground. We walked along the flow of headlights washing past and the fast food stores and service stations all buzzing through the darkness and she lead the way up a hill, feet slipping on the grass. She pulled me up to the top. It was an overpass, a footbridge over the traffic. Four lanes of cars flashing back and forth beneath. She sat right up at the edge, her legs dangling over the side, pulled my hand to come down and join her. We watched the lights zipping beneath our shoes, so close. I could feel the rush of the trucks humming through my feet.

‘Sometimes I just come here.’ She said. ‘And I just sit here for hours watching. The lights flowing through.’ She was looking out, her hair flickering in the gusts. ‘If you close your eyes you can pretend like you’re the one who’s moving, the noise and the flow rushing by beneath as you glide along.’ She closed her eyes, put her arms out ahead of herself like Superman. She turned to me, smiling. ‘Do it.’ She said. I closed my eyes, pretended to fly. Imagined the still cars and trucks flashing underneath. It was an odd sensation, a trick of the mind. It did feel like you were moving. Flying. I opened my eyes.

‘It’s cool, right?’ She said. I nodded, closed my eyes again.

‘It’s cool.’ I said.

‘I’ve seen you.’ She told me. ‘I see you on the train all the time. I’ve always hoped you might get off at my station.’ And the flying sensation filled through me. The shadows moving across her face in the passing headlights. ‘For some reason I thought you might like this.’ She told me.

 

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