The same smell of disinfectant and hospitals. The scent that wafted into my nostrils that made me press my face into Eve’s shoulder. There was no one to hide with now. No one to hide. No one to take away the unpleasant scents, no one to obscure all the ugliness with her beauty.
The lights on the subway glowed. The plastic was a dull eggshell white. The seat beneath me absorbed the wetness.
The other person on the train did not sit facing me. Her back was to mine. I stared at her back. She was wearing a sweater. It made her look large and soft. She never turned around. I stared blankly at her. She never turned around. The train rumbled to a stop and she got up to leave. I could tell that she looked at me from the corner of her eye before she exited. What was in that glimmer? Disapproval? Curiosity? Disdain? It could have been anything.
I didn’t know when to get off. The train was going northeast. It was going to the station where other trains departed to other places. I suppose I knew that was my destination all along. Where else would I go except elsewhere?
I got off at the next stop. In my dripping bag and my dripping clothes, I stepped into the platform. Into the station.
I realized that I hadn’t been to this station before. Of all the places that Eve and I had gone together in the year of being in this city, we had never come to this place.
How strange that was. To have come from all the way across this city to this place, and to not have ventured the few blocks up to this place.
This station where so many came and left every day. They would come in the early morning, perhaps jump on another bus or train to wherever they needed to go. Then they would reverse their route and head back to where they came from. Some of them hours, I knew.
There were none of those people around. Just the quiet rumble of the few trains that were still rumbling, and the few denizens of the station. There were the errant nightwalkers who did not mind traveling this way at night. There were more of them than I expected. Most of them young. Too young to know better or too young to care.
I was supposed to be one of them. I was supposed to be young. I was supposed to not care. At least I had the latter part down. I did not care.
I went down into the corridor and walked into a huge open room. Lots of glass in the walls, facing the street, facing the city. There were chairs around. Few were occupied, so I decided to occupy one.
Here, it was warm. Here, the rain couldn’t reach me. I watched it storm outside. I reached for the yellow scarf at my throat.
I needed a sign, or something. I needed to be told where to go. And I needed to go there. For Eve. Who was there beside me, urging me to live. There beside me, reminding me that there was so much left. That I could do anything I wanted. That anything was possible if I tried, if I wanted. If I let go of her.
Let go? How could I let go? How could I ever feel differently than I felt at this moment? How could anything every be good again?
It would. It could. It would. It could. Surely. Of course. It would. Things would get better. I would no longer feel this way, someday.
But I wanted to. I didn’t want it to disappear. I didn’t want to stop feeling. I didn’t want to let go of the pain because without the pain, I was afraid of what I’d feel. Would could I feel other than this? And would Eve still be there with me if I did not hurt? The pain reminded me that she was still there, in my heart. The ache was companionship. The ache was all I knew and all I needed.
I was afraid. I did not want her to slip away. I would rather hurt. I would rather hurt than forget her. I would rather become deaf and mute and blind than forget her. Forgetting her would be like that. Forgetting her would erase me. It would turn me into– I don’t know.
I realized that I didn’t know. How could I not know? I did not know who I was before her. I did not who I was before she came and shook me up. I did not know what I loved or what joy was or what life could be like. I did not know about taking chances or late-night chain-smoking or leaving town with the clothes on my back, one bag, and love.
I sat there for a long time. Memories ran through my mind. Of Eve, of course. Of the first time I saw her with her always-delighted eyes. Of the first time she pulled me out of my cocoon and took me flying. Of our summer skinny dipping and the bonfires we made for just the two of us. Of the long flight, shifting in our seats together, curled up against each other. Of seeing the lights of city for the first time with her. There was so much to remember. The weeks we spent at that hotel. The hunt for furniture. Counting tips together on a good night and buying a bottle of wine.
There was so much to remember, to think about. And there was so much to learn. Yes, there was still so much to learn. About myself. About what life could be. About who I could be.
Eve was there. I could feel her there. Though there was this vast emptiness pressing down around me, a void attempting to crumple me and tear me apart at once, there was Eve inside me. She had shown me. There was so much. Yes, there was so much. And I could go on. And I would not be alone.
I thought for a long time. I sat there and thought. My hair dried. My clothes began to dry. The leather chair absorbed some of the rain, the rest went to the floor.
The sun began to come up.