On the same date twenty years earlier, she had performed in his one-act play
“The Kiss,” off-off Broadway, and now coincidentally he was meeting her train
at noon. She greets him with a sincere hug and kiss, dressed as current fashion
dictates, in a smart and practical black dress. The extraordinary station
surrounding them is filled with busy lunchtime stragglers, people whose love
of passionate purpose is transformed into browsing concourse shops with an empty
sense of oblivious poise, on the hunt for something for which they’ll gladly empty
wallets or purses, if a certain shopping fancy is struck and, if not, they’ll still play
at this leisurely respite, this hour’s game of restless contemplation, where love
is not an integral factor. For these two, it’s an awkward start: they talk of her train
ride, the coincidental anniversary, how they wheel like the painted stars on the station
ceiling, distant floating satellites occasionally reunited when, after a fashion,
their orbits happen happily to realign. She had been an international fashion
designer, feted by the masses as a visionary mogul, but the fame felt empty
and contrived, so she danced away. Surprisingly, she’d opted for a change of station,
choosing as new fourth husband a vegetable farmer in Provence, a conservative play
compared to the motley urbane trio that preceded him. She was keen to train
him in the ways of the big metropolis, but first she escaped to meet with an old love.
In a park, while watching the noonday vagaries of vagrants and birds, she asked, “Love,
why is it that you and I never wound up together?” He thought, but couldn’t fashion
a reasonable answer. “It’s always been bad timing,” was all he could venture, “just two trains
always heading in opposite directions.” She nodded in agreement, acknowledging the empty
wisdom of this, thinking back on lost opportunities. Even when she had starred in his play
they had each been involved with others, and now those trains had long since left the station.
Life had its way with molding their discrete fates, separately. Even when the distant radio station
could be heard playing the very same song that had made them once swoon with visions of love,
all they could muster now was a pair of sincere, appreciative smiles. Decades ago, he’d played
her that song, a sad rendition accompanied by acoustic guitar, sung in coffeehouse fashion
in hopes of eliciting eternal devotion, or at least a night together in bed. While that empty
hope was never realized, there instead grew a lasting friendship, the kind you couldn’t train
others to have, the kind that made her interrupt a hectic holiday agenda to take a long train
ride in order to spend a few fleeting hours with her soul mate. But now it’s back to the station
and her real life, the new husband, the kids and step-kids, and all the echoes of empty
dreams of what could have been must be filed away ‘til some future date. “We have a love
that transcends time, don’t we?” she asks, boarding her departing train in graceful fashion.
“We do,” he says, stealing the kind of impassioned kiss he’d once written about in a play.
He stood and watched her train depart, increasing speed and distance, separating love
from love one more time, leaving him alone at the station, thoughts of the one-time fashion
designer in his heart and head, an empty exercise like the rehearsed lines of a long-ago play.
Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and music journalist who has taken part in The Frost Place’s conference on teaching poetry. Recent poetry credits includce The Compass Rose, The Fine Line, Manor House Quarterly, The Ghazal Page, and Midwest Literary Magazine.