Feb. Assignment- First time here
Find a Conversation
|Sun, 02-20-2000 - 5:55pm|
Feb. Assignment- First time here
Amelia pressed her face against the cold window, watching the world rush past her outside of the warmth and safety of the train. Of course, she knew that the world was standing still, and she was the one hurtling forward. But the emerald hills and trees that wizzed by her in a colorful whirl of indistinguishable shapes made it hard to believe this. She exhaled heavily onto the smudged surface, watching wisps of breath leave their imprints between scratch marks on the plexiglass-like surface.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see where someone, no doubt under the age of consent, had carved:"Nathan Loves Kallie!" Below it they'd tried to carve a heart, but it seemed to have gotten mangled in the effort. What had happened to it? She wondered vaguely, as she looked at mountains looming impressively on all sides of her as they went through a tunnel carved inside of one. She sucked her breath in deeply... holding it just inside her mouth the entire time the mountain's walls kept the train dark. She could feel her claustrophobic impulses jumping inside her chest. It was magical. Such a relief to think of being trapped in a mountain instead of the true horror of the uncertainty inside of her that she didn't know how to conceal much longer. What respite, to be able to focus on another fear for a moment! But all too soon they made it safely to the other side, and her hidden thoughts consumed her again. For a brief moment she tried to sidetrack her mind with visions of trains jumping tracks... falling off of cliffs... but they couldn't keep her interest. Oh well, she thought. So what if I did die in some freak accident right now? At least then I wouldn't have to face him. She thought to herself recklessly. Desperation was creeping in. How much longer could she dwell on this?
Catching sight of the small, but bold announcement again, she pictured Nathan, who'd be about 12, she guessed, armed slyly with his tiny pocket knife, carefully carving out his declaration of love for the infamous Kallie, probably his 16 year old neighbor who didn't have a clue of his existence. Most likely he'd sat on that train, his parents only a few seats away as he commited a felony of passion. Maybe he pretended to be looking out the window whenever one of the attendants strode by, resting his hand just so over his creation, his heart thumping wildly in his chest as he dared to commit this reckless assault on the battered train window to prove his love. Kallie, of course, probably never knew, but Nathan had left that train ride feeling smug and brave and powerful. He had conquered fear to show love.
Amelia found herself suddenly wondering, with unexpected intensity, what happened to Nate and Kallie. Had they ended up together? Were they out there together right now? How old was this confession of love? She studied it for a moment for clues, but there were none. The window itself was in such irrepair it was impossible to date when this particular bit of damage had been done. Oh well. She sighed. Expelling her breath in one very loud, elongated effort. The plump old woman beside her aimed her sharp eyes at her yet again.
"Almost there now! Aren't you excited?!" The woman smiled so ecstatically that Amelia found herself searching the woman's face for clues. There must be a way to copy that expression onto my own face! She thought.
The woman's smile faded in the wake of Amelia's intense stare.
"Is something wrong, dear?" The woman's expression was suddenly serious, concerned. "Don't you know we're almost there?" Stating the obvious, as if Amelia could possibly have missed the woman's first overly enthusiastic announcement.
Feeling all her emotions too deeply, she turned her eyes back toward the scenery, which was growing more and more familiar. She'd ridden horses with Tom here only two summers ago, when they were still just getting to know one another. She remembered racing him across the open green meadows, and carefully edging their way down the narrow mountain trails slowly. She following his more experienced lead. God, she thought, that seems such a long time ago. She could see her life clearly divided now, in two equally distressing portions. This was her Y in the road, it was up to her to decide which path to take.
She thought back to yesterday, when Tom had finally tracked her down at her grandmother's house after his two week search. She hadn't been hiding from him exactly. She just had to get away and think. And how could she have done her thinking with the pressure of his nightly telephone calls, and the question looming over her...
She could still hear the anguish in his voice as he pleaded with her to please come home.
"I know you're scared, 'Melia, I know. But we can tackle the fear together. You don't have to decide now, you don't. I'm so sorry I've overwhelmed you with this. I didn't realize how you were feeling... Please, just come home, Please, My Lilia." He'd whispered the last few words. His nickname for her. The one that always made her heart swell with such posessive feelings of loving endearment toward him. It was this last whispered line that had broken her resolve to stay until she'd worked it out. Alone. She couldn't hurt him any longer. She'd have to just pack up her confusion and head home, and this is what she'd done the next morning. This morning.
It seemed to her that up until that day, two weeks ago, before she'd rashly packed up and ran away from her fear, she had just been sort of warming up for life. Her single life had been the dress rehearsal for this reality, decision time. Her mind raced, trying to find the answer that would be right for both of them, but all she found was the confusion of more questions, more worries, more fears.
She could still see her grandmother, giving her the same advice each day she hid out at her house. She heard it from her fourteen times. It had made an impression. Leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. Her grandmother didn't really know what it was like for her. She had never been plagued by these agonizing questions.
She rolled her grandmother's words around in her brain. Letting herself dwell on them. Taste them.
"Love is like a road. It's not a fancy paved one. It's made of dirt and rocks, mudpuddles, holes. Sometimes it's smooth, sometimes it's bumpy. It's natural. It's just like you or I, imperfect. The way God made us all. It's what life is made up of, 'Melia. Pain, heartbreak, laughter, joy... you feel everything twice. You feel it yourself, and then you experience it with your husband, even more intensely. Later, your children, too. Without anyone to share life's experiences with, your life doesn't really mean anything at all. It all just becomes bitter, pointless. Especially when you've had a taste of love but didn't drink it down to let it really consume you." Her grandmother always paused here, making sure Amelia was fixed intently on every word, holding her eyes tightly to make sure she was comprehending the importance of it.
"There is no greater gift. There is no greater purpose in being on this earth, then to give and receive love. Don't let it go, child. Hold onto your gift."
"Bridgegrove. Next Stop." Came the voice over the loud speaker, interrupting her thoughts. People all around her started moving about in their seats, quickly gathering up belongings and hoisting them to their laps. Some stood, as if the train had already stopped. People were so anxious to get to their destinations, homes, vacations, relatives. Amelia folded her hands in her lap, anxiously smoothing one fingertip over the strange smoothness of her new fire engine red acrylic nails. She almost laughed out loud as she examined them. What in the world had she been thinking? She hated red. She hated falsity. What had posessed her to get these foreign objects glued to her fingertips? Was she trying to escape herself? Was she trying to prove to herself and Tom that she wasn't only what she ordinarily showed of herself? No answers. Only more questions. She started picking the paint off of her left pinky finger. The woman beside her protested.
"Don't do that now. Your sweetie hasn't even seen you yet, and your ruining your manicure?!"
Amelia stared at her again in disbelief. The train whistle blew, and she could feel it slowing rapidly.
Another announcement. The train slowed to a final stop. This was it. She didn't move.
"Well, it was nice meeting you, sweetie. I can see my granddaughter down there. And my new little great- grandbaby! Isn't she precious?!" The woman cooed, motioning to a worn looking teenage girl, dressed in cutoff shorts with large holes showing pale skin beneath, and a hot pink tank top. Her breasts, obviously overflowing with milk, barely stayed contained. The baby in her arms wailed wildly as the girl craned her neck at all angles as the passengers crowded out. Amelia wondered vaguely about the girl. Where was her baby's father? Were they still together? Were they married? The girl looked as if she'd been pushed past the point of exhaustion long ago. There was no man next to her. Too bad, she thought to herself. Making assumptions and feeling sorry for the stranger who suddenly seemed to her like someone she truly knew.
"I'll see you later, sweetie, I'm just so excited, I can't wait anymore!" The woman fairly flew from her seat on the wings of her giddiness.
There were only a few people in the aisle now. She could easily go.
Her eyes sought the comfort of the window again, but it was no use. The comfort of the scenery was past, and now, below her, her eyes fell upon a man in a tan leather jacket, the one Amelia remembered so fondly wrapping for him last Christmas. He was holding an armful of pink azaleas and purple irises, he impatiently searched the crowd, she knew, for her face. Tears leapt to her eyes and it was all she could do to keep them from flooding her face. Oh, Tom... what have I done? The thought condemned her, and she swallowed it down hard. She knew she had to keep moving forward. This is where she is now. There is nothing she could do about yesterday. If this was the end, well, she hadn't meant to hurt him. She couldn't have known it before. She didn't know her head was too full of doubts and worries for her to muck through them to find her heart.
Standing, she slung her handbag over her shoulder and opened the overhead compartment for her small satchel. A big, broad man, as dark as the earthy color scheme of the train surrounding him, smiled at her as she stood in the aisle, blocking his path. As she yanked the satchel down she was surprised by the weight of it, having forgotten that she'd packed it full of books. It escaped her grasp, and he caught it in mid-air.
"I'm So Sorry!" She cried out, thoroughly embarassed.
His smile broadened, showing his perfect white teeth. "No need. I should be sorry. A lady was lifting a heavy bag and I didn't offer to help."
He leaned in toward her, brushing her bare arm with his strong one, which was wrapped in a black suede jacket that felt soft, yet smelled somehow like the woods. He held out her bag to her, still smiling.
"Would you like me to carry it for you off the train?" He asked when she didn't grab it right away.
"Oh, no, no. I can get it.. Thank you!" Blushing madly she turned away from him, walking quickly now, down the narrow steps to the lower level. Listening to the deep thumps of his footsteps above and behind her as he followed. What is wrong with me? She wondered in frustration. She never used to notice how other men felt, or smelled. Why now? It all seemed to confirm her worst fears.
She was broadsided by the absolute glowing brightness of the sun as she stepped off the platform. It was overwhelming and she squinted against the light, not yet able to focus.
And then, like a hazy dream, she saw Tom's face above her. He was so happy, it was oozing out of every breath she could hear him take as he leaned in toward her, his lips parting invitingly. She was shocked at the sensations that flowed through her as they kissed. His breath tasted of mangoes and it was all so exquisitely familiar and natural.
As they parted, clasping hands, she felt her worries soothing themselves. Feeling suddenly so amazingly alive and sure, for the first time in these weeks they'd spent apart. Finally, she felt completely at ease and full of answers instead of questions. Her grandmother's words played themselves again through her mind. But this time she understood. The bitterness was gone. She tasted the words with her heart. They tasted sweet. Like mangoes.
"Tom," She burst, unable to hold it in. "I've made my decision."
He stopped walking and stared into her eyes intensely. Not breathing, nor moving a single eyelash... he waited.
She could see the years, like a road that leads on forever to inviting places, places like this, places unknown, adventerous, and less scary because of the companion you travel with. It all bounded suddenly, urgently, into focus.
"Oh, yes, Tom, it's all so clear now. I don't know how I could've had such doubts about us! I trust you. I know you. I love you. I'm sorry I was running on my fear. Yes, Tom, I have the answer to your question now. I will marry you."