Goodbyes.

I love writing short stories which capture single moments; instances which are often overlooked. This is one such short piece inspired by the accompanying painting, observation and my own experience of leaving.


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Goodbyes are strange things, often they are the closing of a book before the end, before the story is finished, leaving so much unsaid and undone.

Forever a moment tinged with sadness for what may have been, whilst lingering expectation of future calls from beyond the now.

Enhanced for me by the hissing of steam locomotives and the rattle of passing railway carriages. I find the very intrinsic transient nature of the station heightens the poignancy. You see today I go to my future; a place where hesitant anxiety skulks in the shadows of trepidation.

Stepping from the platform onto the train is confirmation of my intent, yet my heart is heavy with sadness. The weighty clunk of the door signals finality. The solid steel and wood closing off possibility of concede.

Leaning from the open window I look into her eyes.  Deep brown pools glistening with wetness, teardrops not yet formed. My heart flutters in the presence of her beauty, as it always does.

Leaving her is my greatest regret. Pale skin, gentle, soft. Hair that cascades over her shoulders, which lays upon the morning pillow, a delta, a million threads sparkling in rising suns light. Oh, how I shall miss her warmth, her scent, her childish laughter and her smile.

I reach forward as she steps closer. Wrapping my arms about her slenderness I pull her to me, hold her close. Comfort, comradeship, love.

She lifts her face, powder and rouge, lipstick and Coco Chanel. Pouting she reaches to me. My lips taste hers, sweet, soft, eager. I can feel her skin through the light cotton of her dress. My body floods with desire, with passion. Yet overall the sadness of parting drapes around my soul, a black cloak of earnest despondency.

One moment. One solitary final moment. It is all I have left.

The shrill shriek of the stationmaster’s whistle pierces the air cutting lose the threads of safe harbour. Our lips part, my hands slip unwillingly from her body. The train moves, a grunt, a hiss of steam, another whistle.

My destiny awaits.

I stand looking back. One hand raised, a forlorn attempt to wave. She smiles back, gesturing in return. Small rivers, silver tears run down her cheeks. Too soon she is gone from sight. I fight to retain her image freshly in my mind. That last look. Sad inevitability painted upon her perfect face, the tears which enhanced her beauty. I want, need to capture that, burn it into my memory, etch it there for eternity.

Sitting back I keep my eyes closed, not wanting her light to escape. The faint odour of Coco Channel prevails, the waxy smudge of lipstick. Her laughter is conjured within my mind, giggles, childlike, almost a squeal.

I wonder if I shall ever set eyes upon her again.

Who knows the future, who knows what destiny holds in store?

Not I.

Goodbyes are strange things, often they are the closing of a book before the end, before the story is finished, leaving so much unsaid and undone.

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   © Paul White 2015

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Hitchhiker

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I am old school.

From a time when life seemed simpler, less hectic, less complicated.

It was not.

It was just different.

Some will say that, ‘way back when’, life was safer, people were happier, times were better.

They were not.

Life was simply lived at a slower pace.

But there was less fear.

Less anxiety and more acquiescence.

I think life was more honest.

We were more honest.

With ourselves.

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

We recognised that fact.

We did not fight it, we acknowledged it.

That is what made life simpler.

 

Like hitchhiking.

Like the figure I see ahead of me now. Checked shirt, blue jeans, backpack, thumb-out.

Quite rare nowadays, hitchhikers.

Too much fear. Mostly unwarranted.

Phobia, nurtured and spread by the media.

But who should hold that apprehension.

The driver?

I could drive on past. No one will make me stop.

Is the hiker a danger? A mass murderer?

A Rapist?

Is their thumb a lure for the unsuspecting?

Or

The Hiker?

Simply travelling home.

Should they get into the car?

Could I be a psychotic killer?

Could I be the Rapist?

Is my car a trap?

 

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As I get closer, I see the expectant look on the hiker’s face.

A bright smile.

Willing me to slow.

To stop.

I feel a compulsion.

An obligation to a fellow human.

I have been there myself. Thumb out. Waiting, hoping.

Praying for the next car to stop.

To give me a ride.

A ride to somewhere warm. Somewhere with hot coffee.

The hiker looks clean. Normal.

Conventional.

I slow. Maneuver towards the roadside.

Stop, a few yards beyond.

Looking in my mirror.

Watching.

 

The hiker picks up a small rucksack.

Running towards me.

I lock the doors.

Clunk. Safe.

I can leave. Go.

Put my foot on the accelerator.

Speed away.

The hiker is close now.

My last chance.

Decision time.

A smiling face appears at the window.

I smile back.

Still time.

Go?

Stay?

 

I press a switch.

The window hums. Open.

Half open.

I hear my voice. “Heading North” it says.

“Me too” the hiker replies.

I nod.

The hiker smiles.

Expectancy.

I smile back.

Trepidation.

Time stands still.

Momentarily.

 

Click.

I unlock the doors.

My own thumb jerks, a backward motion.

“Put your bag in the back” my voice speaks again.

Autonomously.

The bag lands on the rear seats.

Drive away, I think.

Take the bag.

Go.

Now.

What is in the bag.

Some clothing.

An iPad.

Money.

Or the hiker’s life?

Their entire possessions.

A lifetime or memories.

Lost loves, lost mother.

A bag of dreams, hopes for the future?

Is that where they are heading now?

The future.

Thiers. Mine. Ours?

Has this moment inexorably entwined our lives?

Left an indelible mark.

Or just a scratch. Unnoticeable, hidden.

One that will fade, become rubbed out as life progresses?

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The door opens.

Blue eyes, bright teeth, pale skin.

The hiker sits next to me.

“Thank you” she says.

“That’s okay” I reply.

I put the car in gear, heading North.

Our lives are meshed. At least for the next one hundred miles.

If she makes it that far.

If I make it that far.

Who knows?

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

You see, I am old school.

I know what makes life simple.

 

 © Paul White 2016


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