A blast of stale air blew into the station ahead of the train, almost on time for a change. As usual the same cast of characters edged closer to the still closed doors, anticipating the whoosh-thump of the portal opening. The crowds started packing tighter and tighter, not pushing and shoving but contracting their personal space to not be left behind when the doors closed.
I was not in a hurry for the first time in years. If I missed BART, well there would be another one along in about seven minutes. No speed needed this trip from San Francisco-Civic Center to Walnut Creek. There was nothing waiting for me but a cold lonely house without a stick of furniture but a queen-sized bed, a Formica table, two chrome leatherette dining chairs and a twenty-one inch flat-screen TV that was really my computer’s monitor. The frig was as empty as the house. It had seen happier days.
My heart was heavy as usual and my nerves felt frayed. This was the usual state of affairs. However, for some reason I looked around me. For the first time in years, I actually looked around the platform, not just looking at a surging, faceless mass of humanity, but I looked at faces. I recognized emotions: boredom, anger, fear, disappointment, happiness and maybe even serenity, though I could hardly see how someone could be serene in the cutthroat world of the San Francisco Financial District. It surprised me that the crowd was alive with emotions. I had not noticed this before.
There was an obvious beggar near the platform edge, his clothes dirty and torn. He held a cane in one hand and a large filthy plastic shopping bag in the other. The bag obviously held his work tools. A small dirty white dog peeked out at one end, a ratty pillow rose out of the rest of it along with a cardboard sign, all dog-eared and grease laden, that I could not read. The man’s eyes were wild looking. If I had to characterize him, I would say crazy or on speed or the latest chemical cocktail put out by big pharma. He wasn’t just down on his luck, he was the walking dead.
I could not keep my eyes on him any longer as I started to wonder if I was going to end up like him in a few years.
I shifted my eyes to a mousey looking anorexic girl, probably about twenty-five, who continually looked left then right, pulled her shoulders in further, looked left and right again and then tried to make herself smaller again. Her face was tight, eyes like a deer in the headlights and a mouth drawn into just a slit across her face. She had her hand deep in her knock-off purse, and I would have bet a hundred she had her hand wrapped around a pepper spray can.
Next to me, a slightly obese man in an off-the-rack dark gray suit with a power tie was talking non-stop on his cell phone. He seemed irritated with whomever he was talking to and continued to berate the person. It went on for a couple of minutes and I finally heard him stop for a moment. He listened for one or two seconds and then the volume rose. He said, “I don’t care what your family problems are. You get that report typed and stop that god damned sniveling and get that report out to FedEx tonight. If there is one error, you’re going to be looking for another job.
He immediately cut the call and noticed I was looking at him. He said to me as though he was my mentor, “Don’t ever hire a single mom, they’re nothing but a pain in the ass, no matter what they look like.” He pushed forward to try to get to the front of the crowd and from a small squeal, I figured he stepped on someone’s toes.
I shook my head and thought, “not much humanity there.”
Next to walk up beside me was an attractive, mature woman in a business suit. She was holding up her left hand trying to read her wristwatch, but with a brief case, an overcoat, and a bouquet of flowers in her hands she was having a problem.
She smiled at me and actually looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have the time?”
“You bet, its 6:40.”
“Ahhh,” she smiled, “I’ll make it.”
Feeling better talking to a person who by all appearances could negotiate life in a positive way I said, “Where are you headed with those beautiful flowers?”
“They are beautiful aren’t they?” She looked them over and smiled wider, as she was obviously pleased with herself. “I’m on my way to my niece’s piano recital. I know she’s nervous but she’s been working so hard, and I thought a little bouquet for the budding Martha Argerich would make her feel special.”
“What a lovely thing to do. You’re a thoughtful aunt.”
The doors finally opened and the crowd began to surge forward intent on finding a seat without gum on it.
We were nearly the last to enter, and I held the door so it would not crush this lovely lady or her flowers. We managed to sit together and talked all the way to Walnut Creek. I stood up for my stop feeling revived, and maybe not perfectly happy, but certainly feeling better than an hour ago.
Her name was Clare and she stood up.
“Your stop?” I asked.
She smiled at me and said “Yes. You know, I’ve seen you on this train many times in the last couple of years.”
“You have? I’m ashamed to say I’ve not seen anyone on this train for a long time. I mean looked at people, you know. Just in my head and stuck in my business and my problems. I want to thank you for helping me reacquaint with humanity.”
I smiled at the lovely woman. And she smiled back.
As we stepped off the train, I said, “So, you live in Walnut Creek …”
We hope you enjoyed Meeting – Flash Fiction by Phoenix. Feel free to comment below.
Other fiction by Phoenix:
Leon’s Lair, Speculative Fiction that has it all – romance, betrayal, suspense, evil creatures, heroes, and lot’s of adventure. Amazon.com
A Whisper from Eden, Speculative Fiction based on a real Indian tribe and their ancient myths of people who came from the heavens. Amazon.com
My Beloved Ghost in the Amazon, how one man found redemption in an unexpected place – the jungles of the Amazon. Amazon.com