Train Ride to the Met

April 29, 2008
By Kruti Vekaria, South Barrington, IL

With steaming coffee in one hand and a crumpled up newspaper in the other, Daniel Palmer rushed onto the bustling train. His eyes darted around until he found one of the last vacant seats amidst the crowd of strangers, all waiting to embark on a journey. The doors closed with a bang as he settled into his seat and began to read an article in The New York Times involving global warming, doing anything in his power to keep his mind off of the events of the previous day.

He couldn’t believe that his sister Francis had been so ridiculous. Of course, like all siblings, they had gotten into arguments before, but this was no petty quarrel over the television remote. This was major. She couldn’t stand his new fiancée, Rebecca, and she let her know it every single chance she got. The dinner last night that was supposed to be a friendly gathering had turned into a heated argument, with Daniel stuck in the middle. He couldn't bear having to choose between his sister and the love of his life; it split him apart like a fierce game of tug-of-war. Exhausted, his body physically ached from all of the tension. Rebecca was an artsy and passionate woman who was full of life, everything Daniel could ever hope for. But last night’s argument might have been the last time he would ever speak to her again. She had run off sobbing as Daniel had stood helpless at the door gazing wistfully after her shadow, even after it had disappeared into the darkness. He replayed this scene over and over in his mind like a broken cassette tape before it became too much to bear. The train quickly started up again, and he concentrated his attention on the bland newspaper article until a few stops later, when he glanced up.

A strange old woman had just entered the train, clothed in a faded violet dress and a dusty brown shawl. Her tiny figure was barely visible under all of the draped layers of clothing. Her shoes were worn and her hair, just beginning to gray, was knotted in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. For some reason, Daniel soon became very self-conscious of this odd figure that was quickly approaching him. His heart rate began to climb until he breathed a sigh of relief realizing that it was only because the last available seat in the cabin was right next to him. As Daniel scooted over to allow the woman some room, he caught sight of the strange watch on her wrist. Instead of numbers, the face of the clock seemed to have words on it, although they were too tiny for him to read legibly. He clenched his newspaper tightly and looked away but not before exchanging glances with the lady. Something about her gaze felt familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Her eyes were soft around the edges, and their age held more years of wisdom than Daniel could ever hope to live for.

Rebecca Fitzharris took her seat on the train and smiled to herself as she thought of the day ahead of her. A whole day to explore the countless amounts of exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While most people (namely tourists) only ventured to view the extravagant, specially advertised exhibits, the quiet, less famous ones were the ones Rebecca liked best. It was there that she truly had the artwork to herself and could pour over every intimate detail to her liking. As she shifted in her seat, she couldn’t help but notice the young man sitting next to her. His youthful frame, curly brown hair, and distinctive nose reminded her of a man she once knew long ago, back when she was a design student in her 20s. Now the product of three divorces (the fourth one still in progress), she worked mostly in retail, but her love for drawing was not lost and she still found time to make a sketch here or there.

The train ride would be a long one. The conductor had just blared an announcement over the PA system that due to delays on some of the other lines, this train would be running slower than usual. Most of the passengers on the train groaned in annoyance, but Rebecca thought to herself, “No problem,” as she carefully pulled out a leather journal and charcoal pencil from the small black purse that had been sitting neatly at her side.

The charcoal attached itself like a magnet to the paper. Her swift fingers worked like magic. Daniel glanced to the side of his newspaper and watched in awe as the charcoal glided smoothly over the surface of the paper, creating the outline of a face. She closed her eyes for a moment and reached far back into her memories into a time where she had truly been happy. When she opened them again, she kept working until her fingers became dark with charcoal and her fragile hand was tired. As Daniel tried to inconspicuously make out what the drawing was, the old woman caught his glance and quickly flipped her sketchbook shut.

Taken aback, Daniel stuttered and mumbled out of the side of his mouth, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude on your privacy, I just thought it was amazing. You have incredible talent.”

“Keep your mind on your own business!” she barked, surprising even herself with the harshness of her tone. Her once kind eyes had taken on a dark hue. Daniel’s face flushed and he sunk back into his seat, his eyes desperately trying to focus back onto his newspaper. He read the same sentence over and over, praying for the lady to get up and leave so she could spare him his embarrassment.

“86th street,” the automated voice rang through the train. Flustered, she gathered up her belongings and stuffed them back into her purse. Daniel breathed a sigh of relief. As she got up, he got one last look at her strange watch, and this time he could finally read the words carefully engraved into the metal. “This is what will happen to her if you let her go,” the twelve words on the face of the clock screamed gracefully to him.

Confused, he glanced towards the exit and saw the lady proceeding to leave. The charcoal drawing she had just sketched had been stuffed flimsily into her bag, and as she stepped off onto the platform it fluttered onto the ground face down right near his feet.

“Excuse me, ma’am, you dropped your…” he began to exclaim in a loud voice. But it was too late. The door banged shut and he saw through the window that she had already hurried away towards the Met. He was left with the remarkable sketch in his hand. As he flipped it over to examine it more closely, he swallowed a gasp of horror. The image he was staring at reflected his own face down to the very last detail; it could have very well have been a mirror. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his cell phone, frantically scrolling down through his list of contacts before finding the very one he was looking for, and pressed the green call button. “Rebecca, is that you? Listen, we really have to talk…” he started.

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This article has 1 comment.

jkon88 said...
on Aug. 5 2008 at 2:33 am
AMazing back to the future kind of thing

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