The first in a series of short stories inspired by Songs.
Pressing the dials on the payphone, I called her up in the middle of the night.
All was dark and quiet. I felt like a firefly without a light. She was a blowtorch always calling me to her side.
She picked up on the first ring.
“Where are you? I didn’t even hear you leave…”
“I’ve just, I’m so tired I can’t even sleep. There’s so many things…” So many things I couldn’t say. I promised myself I wouldn’t weep, yet here I was crying into the receiver. Just another promise for me to break.
“What is it?”
I looked out into the silent night. Mindlessly, I fiddled with the ticket in my hand. Bending the corner in ever so slightly. It was paper-thin, and weightless, I knew. But somehow it weighed at least ten pounds in my hand. I struggled to keep ahold of it.
What was I going to say to her? What could I say? There was no one who could help me now, not even her or her sweet voice. “I’m just in too deep,” I muttered into the phone.
“What are you talking about?” Her voice was beginning to become shrill and break. Even then it was soft and smooth. A little quieter she asked, “What did you do?”
Thunder shook the black night. “I don’t want to talk about that.” Then, before she could say another word, I began. “Remember when we went to the lake? You wore that teal sequined dress and waded into the water with it still on…”
“It still smells like dirty lake water.”
I smiled. Remembering that moment always made me smile. How she ran full force into the soul-chilling, bone-freezing water. Pausing only to turn back at me, her black-blue hair slapping her in the face, to smile. I wondered if I would still remember. Remember how to smile where I was going.
How did things end up this way? I wondered. So jaded.
Thunder roared overhead and the clouds rumbled as they burst into droplet s of rain. Small and soft at first. Then they began to fall down harder and faster.
“What is this all about?”
Her question echoed in my mind. The ticket grew heavier in my grip. I was going somewhere no one else could and now I knew something no one else did. Nothing was right any more. Not cut or dried, day or night, earth or sky; none of it seemed real.
What was real was I was leaving. I couldn’t say why. I couldn’t begin to explain where.
A horn broke through the sound of rain colliding with the solid ground.
Where no one else had been. That’s where I’d be. I laughed. Laughed at the irony. The ridiculousness. I laughed at the misery. The pain. I laughed. I laughed. I laughed at the rain.
“Is this a joke?”
The horn was louder now.
The train pulled up to the station, tearing up the tracks.
“I have to go now. I’m not coming back.”
“What? Where are you going?”
I could hear the sob caught in her throat. See the tears running down her rose-petal cheeks.
“I’m sorry.” I hung up the phone.
I handed my one-way ticket to the man. I would never return. Where I was going I would never exist again. Not here. Not there. Not without her.
“Are you ready?” He asked.
I could only nod.
The train started back up. I could feel it vibrate through my veins.
I didn’t know where I would go or what I would become.
But the light of his halo calmed my thoughts as I rode the train home.