Far Away Trains Passing By

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Struggling to find a meaning in life, Zin revisits a part of his past when remembering an old teacher.

Submitted: November 09, 2015

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Submitted: November 09, 2015

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The digital clock in the conference room advanced at a pace that would probably make God’s hairs gray, if he had any. Zin found himself in yet another boring and yawn inducing workgroup meeting. It seemed everyone in the company had plenty of time to schedule meetings, but never enough to actually accomplish the tasks at hand. Zin would power through all his work, e-mails, and of course, browse Reddit while taking a dump. Nothing beats getting paid to poop, Zin would say.

While his colleagues droned on about synergy, improving productivity, and “liasing” (a new buzzword) efficiently with different departments, Zin stared intently into the wall. The wall was about as generic as you could get in a commercial office building. A simple divider littered with tacked important policy papers and memos. Every now and then there would be a plaque of some sort or award given to the company for charitable events. He thought back to a familiar daydream of driving his fathers ’84 Recaro Trans Am cross-country. Traversing the vast open highways with the T-tops down, hair blowing in the wind, and driving right into the golden sunset.

 “Zin, what are your thoughts on ways to improve communication between departments? So far we have a few ideas, a daily communicator e-mail of important developments, weekly interdepartmental meetings…”

Zin’s eyes quickly shifted to this senior manager, the world that played on the wall disintegrated into millions of tiny little bits that rearranged themselves into the littered mess of important policy papers and memos.

“How about we take all of our Outlook invites, work phones, meetings, ‘synergy’, and all this other fucking crap about ‘teamwork’, shove it up our ass, and only update on things when there is something to actually update on?”

Everyone in the room was shocked and needless to say, the senior manager’s face was flushed with white horror. Or at least, that’s how it played out in Zin’s head. Luckily for him, his filter was incredibly powerful at preventing disastrous mistakes like that, at least most of the time.

“These ideas are great, but I feel that avoiding e-mail fatigue is important if we want to maintain optimal teamwork between departments. Not all projects move along at the same pace, people not involved or with smaller roles will tend to ignore further updates.”

The manager seemed to agree with Zin’s idea and furthered the discussion on a growing problem in corporate America, meetings, meetings, and more meetings with a sprinkle of flooded inboxes. Zin’s gaze went back to the littered wall, but not before it made a quick rest stop on Nadia who was sitting across the table from him. But before his eyes could make a beeline to the wall, her eyes met his. Nadia made a quick smile before looking back at her laptop, quickly typing the meeting’s minutes as they ploughed through more bullshit.

“Zin wait up!” Nadia exclaimed as they made their way out of the conference room. “That was a quick save, I saw you drifting into some other world again!”

“Dammit Nadia, why you gotta call me out all the time?” Zin joked.

“Well Zin, I’m not sure how you manage to save yourself each time it happens. You must have a quad-core processor in there, one side dedicated to daydreaming and the other to keeping up with your surroundings!”

Zin acknowledged his amazing ability to maintain focus while drifting into the other world. While it came in handy, it had its limits. But even if he was caught off guard, Zin always managed to get away with it using that boyish charm and personality. Traits that often led to Nadia and Zin occasionally blurring the lines between coworkers, or friends with benefits.

“I was going through my calendar reminders and realized today is Mr. David’s death anniversary. I know you usually go like to visit the cemetery and figured you probably forgot,” Nadia said as she was scrolling through more e-mails and meeting requests on her phone. Zin looked at Nadia with a puzzled face just realizing the importance of the day. The only words he could mutter were something along the lines of, “…huh, is that so?”

Mr. David had been Zin’s high school physics teacher who had been not only a great role model and teacher, but mentor as well. In his high school years, Zin was content with just getting by. Most of that attitude (though Nadia would argue some remained) vanished in junior year of high school in Mr. David’s physics class. Zin’s mother insisted it was the fact that Mr. David was Indian that brought some well-needed discipline into Zin’s young life. He scoffed when the class had to turn in their binders for a check each marking period to ensure all the papers and notes were up-to-date. Zin found out early on that Mr. David did not hold back pointing out lackluster performance. Overtime, Zin found himself pushing harder to perform better in the class and in doing so built a great rapport with Mr. David. He was one of the first teachers Zin reached out to when it came time for college applications for law school. Even years later after graduation, Zin returned to the school periodically to catch up about tough college courses, crazy parties, and of course, their subpar physics courses. Eventually after Mr. David retired the two lost touch as he moved back to India for most of the year, only occasionally travelling back to the States for family visits. In the two years that passed, Zin heard through the grapevine that Mr. David had fallen ill due to a terminal cancer. Not sure if his old teacher was even still alive, Zin wrote an emotional letter thanking him for the years of support and sent it to an old address. Unfortunately for Zin, it was a little too late, as his beloved teacher had passed away in December barely weeks after he mailed out the letter. Since then, Zin had made it a habit to visit the old physics classroom once a year to pay his respects. Nadia had met Mr. David as secretary of the Care for the Cure Club in her local high school. She had worked with Mr. David on a few fundraisers between both schools to help promote the cause. He had started a similar club at Zin’s high school to raise money for juvenile diabetes research.

“Zin, it looks like I’m booked with meeting for the rest of today. I know we usually go together, but would you mind if I skipped out?” Nadia said sensing a hint of disappointment in her audience.

“No that’s fine Nadia, I guess I’ll just have to suffer alone…”

“You know that’s not true Zin! You wouldn’t have even remembered if it wasn’t for me!”

Zin smiled as Nadia just rolled her eyes and walked down the hallway abyss into more meetings. It was a soulless corporation that sucked the life right out of you. If only there was something more, Zin thought as he continued to his workstation and plowed through yet another day.

It was a chilly November afternoon with the trees already mostly yellow from their annual color dying festival. Zin took a notice of the fall foliage as he was stuck in gridlock traffic on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Once past the traffic caused by just one stalled vehicle, Zin managed to weave through Fort Lee and finally took the exit towards his destination.

Driving through Englewood broke the levees and allowed a flood of memories to drown out Zin’s mind. He thought of his first beer, first cigarette (or joint), and of course, the first girl he got to second base with. Zin made his way to Palisades Avenue and drove past many of the places him and his friends would go to after school. There was Blue Moon Café with the best Mexican food around, the sketchy Junior Mini Market, and the McDonald’s everyone got so excited about. Soon enough, Zin arrived at the long driveway entrance to the Academies @ Englewood/Dwight Morrow High School campus right off of Knickerbocker Road. Looking to his left, Zin could see the old swing set and picnic benches far off in the corner of the front lawn. To his right he saw the sculpture of two arrows still pointing sky above. There was a significant backstory to the two schools, but Zin often found that too cumbersome and boring to remember so he conveniently left that out of memory. The only thing he remembered was that the exterior of Dwight Morrow High School was used on the show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

“Hello sir, before you enter I need you to sign in. Who are you here to see?” The security guard sat up from scrolling through his iPhone to tend to official business.

“Hello, my name is Zin, an alumnus of the Academies. I come every year to pay my respects to Mr. David.”

“Mister who? Look kid just put your name down in the sign in sheet and I’ll need to see your license. I’m not sure if there is a Mr. David here.” As Zin was signing his name into the logbook he couldn’t help but smile at the guard’s impeccable investigative work. Of course he isn’t you fool; he’s dead. The guard eventually let him through and gave directions on where to find the room. He was specific enough to describe the colors of the lockers adjacent to the classroom door. Okay man, I just said I was an alumnus I think I remember my way around. But Zin just kept nodding his head politely while grinding his teeth.

The old physics lab was just as how he remembered. Luckily no one seemed to be in the room so he was free to roam around. The old rollercoaster model was still in the far corner of the room near the slightly open windows. Collages and poster boards from the annual Six Flags Great Adventure trips still hung from the classroom walls. Every year Zin and Nadia visit the classroom to remember a person who had made such a difference in their lives. Water began to fill his eyes as he recalled writing a letter to Mr. David only to realize he was already in a terminal state from cancer. If only I had reached out sooner, all I needed to do was take a mere five minutes out of my day...Zin quickly brushed away those thoughts. Deep down, he knew life had its course and there wasn't much we could do about it. Zin took a look around the room one last time before heading out. After a brief pause for reflection he threw on his overcoat and headed to Tommy Fox's in Bergenfield and ordered the customary Indian drink, Johnnie Black on the rocks.

Zin laid in his bed that night getting ready for another long workday. Nadia often teased him for being late to the stupid morning meetings so he reviewed his phone’s calendar for tomorrow’s meetings. Feeling overwhelmed by a packed schedule, he set his alarms and drifted off into another world. In the beginning, the dreams were just palettes of colors, scenes, and feelings all jumbled up into a continuous experience. Most people probably don’t even remember what they dream about unless they exert some effort to remember. Even then, these memories may be too distant and abstract to recollect.

Zin found himself floating through consciousness until he ended up in a convoluted building that resembled his old high school. He was sitting in an ante room near the old lab where most of the supplies were kept. To his left Mr. David had been setting up some items for a class.

“Hey Mr. David what are those plates you are setting up?” Mr. David looked towards Zin with an old, but familiar smile in a way was teasing him.

“Zin these are agar plates. You know, if you paid more attention in class this wouldn’t be so foreign to you!”

Zin smiled and acknowledged the jab at his attention span in class. Of course it didn’t dawn upon him in the dream why a physics teacher would be dealing with agar plates. He continued smiling as he looked out the window and beautiful foliage simmering against the blue sky and sun. Mr. David was still setting up his plates when Zin turned to him.

“Mr. David, remember that time you caught our class cheating on one of the homework assignments? Man, we thought we were slick copying off that one kid. But you caught us and made sure we didn’t pull a stunt like that again. I wanted to thank you for teaching me that lesson. I still remember it to this day.”

Tears began to well up in Zin’s eyes. But just as he was about to wipe away the water, Mr. David turned to him and extended his hand. Zin looking perplexed shook his hand and embraced Mr. David in a hug. The dream suddenly flashed and the colors of the foliage outside became much more vivid. Zin examined his surroundings and noticed they were on opposite sides of the train tracks. He realized where they were, which was just near Nick’s Pizza in Bergenfield. Years ago, Nadia and Zin had met for the first time here while conducting a fundraiser for the Care for the Cure club.

The sun kept shining but an intense fog had settled onto the dream stage. Mr. David’s figure had become a shadow. Zin reached out his hand one more time as the dream began to collapse back into those palettes of colors. A distant voice uttered a sentence that was inaudible against the backdrop of disintegration.

Zin woke up and felt incredibly amazed by the dream he just had. It felt so real he could hardly believe it was a dream. Driving into work, he felt a renewed sense of purpose. The feelings of guilt the day before in the classroom were long forgotten. After all, why should he feel sad, an old friend paid him a long overdue visit.  


© Copyright 2020 Justin George. All rights reserved.

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