Somewhere to Be

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Late afternoon light spilled through the windows as we approached the station. Audrey agreed we could ride into Penn together if I swore we’d part ways by the time we made it outside. On our ride, she mentioned several times how much she would miss the old structure. She kept emphasizing the word like it was a newborn she pined to hold against her chest again. Pressing the thin sheets of paper against my briefcase, she filled out the last of her documents and then handed me back my pen. 

“Here.”

Audrey had a habit of shifting her eyes away from mine when we talked, as if communicating that our conversations were confined to quick transactions. I shoved her manilla folder into the case, letting several slips of paper loose. She helped me pick them up. The last opened envelope I scrapped off the floor belonged to an old college roommate I had yet to write back. Nathaniel spent half the page bragging about a lecture he heard from Flannery O’ Connor this month; his letter ended with a quote from O’ Connor claiming that “somewhere is better than anywhere.” I think I agree.

“They should all be in there,” Audrey confirmed. Then the train stopped, and somehow the conversation devolved into some cynical monologue about time healing all wounds, but also killing us slowly. She wasn’t listening. Instead, she mentioned being late & waxed some euphemism for “date with someone that isn’t you.” 

I lied & said I had somewhere to be too. That my father was passing through and we would eat at P.J. Clarke’s to order what Nat King Cole called “the Cadillac of burgers.” She grunted just enough to say: your lies can’t even entertain me the way they used to. Still, she hugged me goodbye. I smelled her Youth Dew perfume & those familiar notes of clove & cinnamon. After our formal parting, we were both walking the same way. I followed Audrey’s lead as she stayed to the side, just to the left of the light. I kept my pace behind her until someone called out for help from the “young couple,” and Audrey kept walking. 

I met the room’s hollow center and the older woman that tried to wave us down. Her silhouette stretched across the passing of strangers. 

“Could you hold this?” She revealed a miniature mirror before fumbling with her open purse. I held it & felt helpful, just long enough to realize it.

After she thanked me, I stepped onto 31st street and watched more strangers shuffle past each other. Audrey was gone. Among the people with places to go, and other people to keep them company, I Iooked up. The shadows of the roof above us were tucked around the pillars that held them. They say by ‘65 it will be completely different, but how could something like this, something that took so much time to build be deconstructed so quickly? I just pray this shell of Penn Station might still mean something.


Submitted: March 01, 2020

© Copyright 2022 Joel Holland. All rights reserved.

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