I’ll Be Seeing You
I’ve always been captivated by trains. Large, noisy steam trains hold a particular significance to me. When I was little we went to the train station to pick up my Aunt Mildred. Not a big, fancy station like Grand Central, but just a small rural one.
My mother was griping about the sweltering heat and my father snapped, “Shut up. It’s your goddam sister visiting again!”
The fight took off from there. Thankfully nobody was around. Just when I thought they couldn’t yell any louder and feared my father would switch to his fists, I heard it – the train whistle.
I jumped off the bench and leaned forward, I could see the train barreling down the tracks. The ground was shaking, the thick dark smoke hung heavy in the air and the whistle blew with a deafening shriek. The noise swallowed my parent’s fight whole until nothing but the roar of the train could be heard.
From that moment on I’ve loved trains.
I’m a grown, lonely woman now with no friends or family to speak of.
Tonight I’m drinking a glass of wine and passing the time with my favorite hobby; scrolling through old black & white photos, my preference being early war era photos. I’m particularly infatuated with the ones where girlfriends and wives stand tippy-toe on the step-rail as their soldier leans down for a farewell kiss.
The romance of these pictures overshadows the reality that many of these men never returned home.
I don’t think about that part. As I’m want to do, I just pretend everyone lived happily ever after. Except me, of course, I could never pretend that well.
When these thoughts get too heavy for me, I put on some soothing music to coax me into sleep. Tonight is one of those nights.
I’m sitting on a bench in a train station I don’t recognize. I don’t know how I got here. The quaint, dusty town is not familiar to me. The faint sound of a classical waltz floats in the air. I notice a man behind the ticket window and I walk hesitantly over to him.
“Excuse me sir, but… where am I?”
Laughing the ticket taker says, “You’re here, little lady.”
“B-b-but where is here?” I ask.
“Train’s comin’…” The man says as he walks back into the office.
“But, sir…?” my words sit unheard. He’s gone.
Despite my confusion, the sound of the train is calming. I watch as the huge iron beast comes to a full stop in front of me.
The door opens and a man steps out, he puts a step down and stands aside. A young woman comes to the door, her eyes dart around looking for someone. She slowly walks down the steps. Her clothes are from the Victorian era. A long, bustled skirt with a prim neck lined blouse tucked neatly into it. She has on an extravagant, oversized hat. A few wispy tendrils of hair fall delicately in front of her ears in a becoming manner. She looks at me and smiles shyly. A man I didn’t notice earlier appears, he is wearing the same old fashioned clothing. He beams at her.
“You’re here.” He says as he offers her his hand.
She reaches out tentatively and takes it. “Yes, I am.”
They both jump at the touch and then smile at each other.
They walk down the dusty road hand in hand. Together.
Confused, I go back to the empty ticket window.
“Excuse me? Hello…?”
I wake up to the sound of my own voice. The dream so vivid I struggle to recognize my surroundings. They feel wrong. I fail to notice the shoes by my bed are caked with dust.
I carry on with my day never regaining my bearings, but muddling through none the less.
Later that night, I forgo the wine and sit on my balcony in hopes of a breeze to soften the stifling summer heat.
I’m looking at another of my favorite old photos. This one is later, around 1945, and the young men are returning home from war. They are greeted at the train with passionate welcome home kisses. One young man is standing off by himself. Dark, closely cropped hair and a sadness in his eyes that I recognize in my own. He holds a tattered duffel bag. The forlorn expression on his face as he watches the reuniting lovers breaks my heart.
No loving welcome home kiss for him.
Sighing, “If only…”
No breeze comes, so I go inside and restlessly fall asleep.
I am back sitting on the now familiar bench. Big band music is playing faintly nearby.
I feel hopeful and I’m not certain why. I hear the train approaching in the distance. My heart beats faster. I stand up, excitement swells in me as the train squeals to a stop. The man from yesterday once again steps out and puts down the step.
Impatiently I look up at the door, waiting…
I don’t even know what exactly I’m waiting for, but when nobody appears I’m overwhelmed with sadness and I turn to walk away.
A sound alerts me and I look back…it’s him. The young man from the photograph. I recognize him immediately, but even stranger, he recognizes me. He walks slowly down the steps, a smile forming on his lips as he walks towards me.
He puts out his hand, “You’re here.”
Our eyes never break their awed stare as I take his hand, a jolt of electricity causes us both to jump. We laugh a bit nervously.
“Yes, I am.”
We walk down the dusty road hand in hand. Together.