Absconder

Write a story based off a song.

A Matter of Minutes

Shawn Colvin

I’ve been thinking
About you and me
Maybe I was just
Seeing what I wanted to see

You can call me crazy
But you know this time I’ve sworn
That I wouldn’t run
But I can’t do that anymore

I can’t find a way to stay
And I can’t see my way to go
But I can’t give up without a fight

I can pack myself up in a matter of minutes
Leave you all far behind
All of my old world and all the things in it are hard to find
If they ever were mine

You’ve been trying
And I know it’s been hard
And I’m afraid of
All this blood in my heart

If there’s one thing certain
It’s there ain’t nothing for sure, no
And I want to run
But I can’t do that anymore

I can’t meet you half way
And I can’t have it my way
And I can’t give up without a fight

I can pack myself up in a matter of minutes
Leave you all far behind
And all of my old world and all the things in it are hard to find
All of my old world and all the things in it are hard to find
Like they ever were mine

I could count the good times we had
On one hand
All the rest was
A sort of means to the end

Well now it’s done
And I can never go back

To where I was before
And I wanna run…

I can get myself clean in a matter of minutes
And get it wrong every time
All of my whole world and all the things in it are hard to, hard to find
Everything changed in a matter of minutes
And nothing was saved in time
All of my old world and all the things in it are hard to find
But they never, never, never were mine

Absconder

Marlena Chertock

I was always the rebellious type.  When I was a kid I made it a game to find the best hiding spots for hide-and-go-seek.  My friends, and parents, could never find me.  I ran away from home one time in my junior year of high school.  It had scared my mother sick.  I suppose my fondness for the game has never left me.

It was two weeks and five months after I had moved in with my boyfriend that I began to feel too settled, like I was planted in place and thrown in to a pot I had no desire to be in.  I’m the type of person who has to move around a lot, who has to try out a bunch of different things before I know exactly what I want to do.  Judging by my feelings, I’m guessing that I do not want to get married.

A sudden breeze comes in through the open bedroom window and I shift my gaze to the outside.  The sidewalk is crowded to its capacity with business men clutching their briefcases and mothers tightly gripping their children’s hands.  I long to be down there, lost among the crowd, briskly making my way to somewhere, someplace.

On a sudden impulse, I slide my old, red leather suitcase out of the closet corner.  I finger the ragged name tag.  HEATHER, it reads, in faint letters.

In a hurried state, I throw a bunch of T-shirts, skirts, pants, and one cherished dress into my bag.  I pause, take a step back, and survey the room.  Flinging a dresser drawer ajar, I sift through the countless scraps of paper and birthday cards until my fingers graze over a rumpled pile of money.  Flipping through the money, I notice that it is not a lot.

Just enough to get me to the next town over, I think, stuffing the money into an elastic pocket on the lid of my suitcase.

I hear abrupt footsteps on the other side of the door and I shove my suitcase beneath the bed.  Entering the room, Paul spontaneously pulls me into an embrace.  I plaster a smile on my face and take his hand.  Without warning, a whooshing sound fills my ears and I feel myself being transported back three years prior.  Sitting on the bed, I allow the flashback to develop fully.

*          *          *

The train seat was a scratchy cloth material and it clawed at my dress.  I began to feel drowsy, so I curled up next to the window and let my eyes follow the shuffled scenery.  Resting my chin on the window ledge, I stared outside as the train passed antique houses, rolling hills, flashing Ferris wheels, and serene streams.

One quiet morning, I awakened before everyone else.  I took my usual position next to the window and watched the sights.  But on that particular day, there was nothing to look at and so my eyes were drawn to my reflection on the window’s surface.  I gazed at the girl staring back at me and a feeling of guilt rushed through my veins.

“What have I done?” I remember whispering to myself.  One large tear streamed down my face and landed on my hand.

A man on my right shifted in his seat.  He glanced in my direction and asked, “Are you alright?”

I shook my head and turned further away from him.  “I’m fine,” I replied softly.

A few days later, my guilt had diffused and I felt happier.  “I don’t want you to follow me,” I recall confessing to the window, “it’s better this way.”

The train puffed through three towns before it gave up, exhaled, and took a rest.  It was at this stop that I decided to get off.  Clutching my red, leather suitcase, I hopped off the train.  I took a seat on one of the wooden benches on the platform.

I watched as all the passengers walked by me, ignoring me completely.  It was a strange feeling, to be an observer of it all, just to sit back and watch all of those people scurry off to their trains and their cabs and their busses.  They were all en route, I realized, and it would be quite a while before they would be back home with their families.

Just at that moment, I felt a hand falling on my shoulder and an arm wrapping around my waist.  I looked up to see my boyfriend gazing down at me, a worried look in his eyes.

He tightly embraced me and buried his head in my hair.  “Don’t ever do that again,” he whispered to me, sobbing a bit.

Gathering up my red suitcase and my sweater, he took my hand and led me back to his car.  He shut the door, and for the two minutes it took him to walk back to the front seat I was alone.  I treasured those minutes because I knew he would never leave me out of his sight again.

*          *          *

My eyes snap open and for a second I am blinded from the silvery glow of the moon.  My pupils shrink and I exhale quietly.  I cannot bring myself to roll over and go back to sleep.

I descend the stairs and go into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal.  Bringing a spoonful of Cheerios to my mouth, I wonder if I could slip out the back door, without Paul noticing my absence.

Back in the bedroom, I collapse to the floor and get on my hands and knees.  Scooting closer to the bed so that my face is almost hidden in the covers, I reach for my suitcase.  I stretch my fingers until they ache and I finally feel the handle of my bag.  I pull my suitcase out from under the bed and return to the kitchen.

Twisting the knob of the door, I make sure that it does not make its usual squeak.

“Where are you going?”

Releasing the handle, I feel my throat tighten.  I taste the metal residue as I bring my fingers to my lips and let out a muffled gasp.

I turn around to find Paul staring at me, his chin resting on the stair railing.  He looks weary and his eyebrows droop a bit, showing his worry lines.

“Just going out for a walk,” I propose, swiftly concealing my suitcase behind me.  “A lot of people go for walks at night,” I explain when Paul throws me a skeptical look.

“Not at one in the morning.”

I turn away, my black hair falling over my shoulder.

Paul asks, “If you are going for a walk, why do you have that?”  He nods towards my back.

Pulling my bag out, I clutch it to my chest.  “This?  It’s just my purse.”

Sighing, he questions me again.  “Why do you need your purse for a walk?”

My mouth drops and I quickly come up with an excuse.  “What if something happens, Paul, what if I need to call you?”

Shaking his head vigorously, he says, “You’re not going on a walk.”  He slowly makes his way across the kitchen.  Placing his elbows on the table, he drops his head into his palms.  He whispers, “Just admit it.”

*          *          *

Three weeks later, I am sitting at a park bench, overlooking the lake.  Paul decided to get out of the house, so he arranged a surprise picnic for us.  He had gotten up early, packed a small basket with a fruit salad and tuna-fish sandwiches, and found the perfect park to take me, all while I was still asleep.

“Isn’t today lovely?” he repeats another time, sitting down across from me.

All I could manage was a nod.

Sensing my solemn mood, Paul reaches into the basket and pulls out a plate.  He reveals, “I made your favorite—tuna.”

“Thanks,” I sigh, taking a half from the plate.  Nibbling at the crust, I announce that I am full and that it was delicious.

Paul grabs my hand and shakes his, causing our arms to swing over the table.  He begins to stand up and brings me with him.  We make our way to the lake and step onto the bridge.

“Beautiful day,” he sighs cheerfully.

I turn away and lean over the rails, trying to slip my hand out of his grasp.  But he holds fast and pulls me closer.  Furrowing his brow, he gazes into my eyes and wraps his arms around my waist.  I let him kiss me, but when he leans closer for another I pull away and he gets my hair instead.  He makes a teasing face, but I know I have upset him.

*          *          *

Three days later I cannot take it anymore.  I take a bus to the station and purchase a ticket for the ten o’clock train.  I know getting into this relationship meant no more getting out of things, no more running.  But sometimes promises are intended for dreams; this is reality.

It is only eight, so I wander into a gift shop near enough to the station to hear the train whistle.  I walk past sparkling fake necklaces and musty suitcases as I browse throughout the shop.

“Looking for anything in particular, dear?” the old woman who owns the shop asks.  She adjusts her spectacles on her nose to take a better look at me.

Shaking my head, I reply, “No, but thank you.”

Meandering farther back into the shop, I peer into a tarnished gold jug.  I reach my hand into the pot and yank out a large, black umbrella.

“Handy for when the weather is capricious,” the woman says, revealing a full mouth of chipped teeth.  “Where are you headed?”  She is eager to make small talk.

“I’m not sure, maybe up North.”

Immediately, the woman ducks behind her counter and shuffles some boxes around.  She pops up a few minutes later.  “Are you going to the beach?” she asks, covering whatever it is she found in her fist.

I shrug my shoulders.  “I honestly have no idea where I am going.”

There is a glint in the woman’s eyes and she nods, appearing to have categorized me with my succinct answers.  “Take this.”  Unfolding her hand, she exposes a tiny shell dangling from fishing twine.

The shell sparkles in the dim light of the shop.  Its top is dull and coarse, but the underside has such radiance.  Underneath its lackluster top, the shell glistens with every color of the rainbow.

“I couldn’t.  I don’t have the money for that.”

The woman inches her hand closer to me and, seeing that I will not take her shell, she grabs my hand, places it in the center of my palm, and folds my fingers overtop of it.  “Take it,” she reaffirms.

“But, I—”  Before I can come up with a  proper excuse of why I could not take her precious shell, the old woman disappeared behind a curtain in the back.  “What about the umbrella?” I ask.

“Two dollars,” she calls out from somewhere deep into the shop.

I unfasten my suitcase and dig around for the money.  Pulling out one dollar and another ripped one, I place the payment on the counter and leave the shop.

*          *          *

It is nine fifty when I get back to the station.  There is a long line to board the train and I stand at the end.

“Ticket,” the conductor calls out.

I fish in my pocket and feel the old woman’s shell.  Handing him my ticket, I lug my bag onto the train.  I find a seat by the window and collapse.

“All aboard!” I hear the conductor scream.  My eyes follow him as he walks to the front of the train.

On the platform, there are countless families, husbands, children, and grandparents waving goodbye to their loved ones, waving handkerchiefs in the air.  The passengers on the train are knocking on their windows and frantically shouting farewells, although there is a large piece of glass preventing their voices from reaching the outside.

I seem to be the only one without someone to wave to.  Until I glance out the window and catch a glimpse of what appears to be Paul.  He is leaning against the brick wall of the station, behind the rest of the crowd.  His eyes look sunken and his face is in a frown.  He crosses his arms and drops his head, bringing a hand to his face.

The train lets out the first whistle, warning every passenger to hurry up and board.  As the second whistle sounds, telling travelers to have a seat, Paul looks up from the ground and stares right into my window.

My eyes widen and I swallow deeply.

The third and final whistle blows, Paul steps forward.  The engine starts up and the train wheels screech along the metal rails.  Slowly, the train begins to move.

As the speed increases, Paul’s feet do as well.  In a short time, he is running alongside the train, glancing up periodically.

I sink lower in my seat until my head is no longer above the window and my knees are up to my face.

“Heather.”  Paul’s faint screams penetrate my ears as the train chugs down the tracks and recedes from his sight.

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