The train is crowded. The kind of crowded that forces you to squeeze through the sweaty bodies only to have to stand, holding one of the metal poles. The kind of crowded that makes you uncomfortable, and you feel as if no one else can fit. The kind of crowded that makes the voice ask that some people get out and go on the next train. The next train is in 12 minutes. No one wants to wait that long. So no one gets off.

The train stops suddenly, causing me to lurch forward a little bit before regaining my balance and pulling myself back. The doors slide open, and the monotone voice from the speakers reminds us that this stop is Harrison and to let others get out before we come in. The stop is deserted, and a banner proclaims that it is Harrison right in front of the open doors. An elderly woman gets up from her chair next to where I stand and hobbles through the doors, stepping onto the empty platform, and making her way to the escalator going up to ground level. No one else goes in or out except someone from another car that I can only see because of the wide windows. The voice tells that the doors are closing, and they close. The train starts up again with a lurch.

I sit down on the seat. The blue fabric is dirty from who knows what. I don't think they clean the seats. Or they can't. My mom used to have chairs that got super dirty but she couldn't wash or clean. She eventually threw them out. These chairs are nailed into the train wall. They cannot throw them out and replace them. And even if they chose to do so, there are many trains. They could never do it quickly. And it would stall the trains as the chairs are replaced. They will not change for a long time.

The person on my left is about in his mid-twenties, with brown disheveled hair and slight stubble. He's texting on his phone. On my right is a five-year-old watching Netflix. Many people on the train are on their phones. I am not.

I shift in my seat. Sitting in the same spot for a long time is hard for me. The train lurches to a stop again. This time the train stop is has people. Someone sits down next to a pillar and strums a guitar. His guitar case has a couple of dollar bills in it. He's singing about love and peace and stuff like that. Someone throws another dollar bill into the case.

The train tells us that this is Amber. A handful of people walk out of the train, and I can see others from other train cars doing the same. Three people come in. The first is a man with a suit and tie, a briefcase, and an expensive-looking watch. The second is a middle-aged woman who looks to be around in her forties. She has bags under her eyes and she slumps down in the only empty chair. The third is a guy who smells like he was just smoking. His teeth are yellow and the smell of cigarettes creeps over the train car like fog.

Everything is silent except for the click-clack of the guy next to me texting, the sound of people breathing, and the steady hum of the train. I sit there for a few minutes before the train lurches to a stop, and the doors open. Everyone rushes out, and the stop is so crowded and loud I cannot hear the voice telling me what stop it is. I cannot see the banner proclaiming what stop this is. But I know. It's Pufis stop. One of the most popular stops because from here you can go directly to any other train line in less than two minutes. it's also the second to last stop on this train's route.

I am the last one I this train car. The doors close and the train glides off, humming. I stare out the window at the lights that flash into view swiftly and flash out just as quickly. The train hums its way down the track for a solid twenty minutes before it starts up a gradual incline. Suddenly the walls are gone, and the train emerges out from the underground tunnel. The sun blinds me for a moment, but my eyes adjust quickly. I can see the city a few miles away. The tall buildings reach into the sky grazing the clouds. I wonder what Rowan would say about it. He always made up the best stories about everyday objects and scenes. There was the dark a dreary Underworld, the land of fairies, and the purple mushrooms that you should never ever touch.

Rowan created magic everywhere he went. Yet he always said he simply found it and told the world. He told he wasn't good enough to create our and raw magic. He could only find it, see it.

The train stops at the final stop. It's just a platform with a roof and walls and one of those things that you scan your train card on so you can get in to ride the train. But it does count as a stop. I step off the train and onto the platform, squeezing through the door and onto the simple trail through the field of waist-high grass.

But the grass is only protection, and after a dozen feet of wading through it, it ends abruptly. Beyond the grass are rolling hills filled to the brim with flowers of every kind, an array of colors. And on the top of the hill is a single stone.

I walk to the top of the hill, hands in my pockets. What is on the stone is simple, yet elegant.

Rowan Avinor

Brother ∙ Father ∙ Son ∙ Friend

Who found and created magic everywhere he went

Magic is everywhere, you simply have to look for it

Eliana is in front of the grave already. She holds a handful of petite blue flowers which she lays in front of the headstone. She gives me a tight smile. Her eyes are red and puffy. She says no words. She does not have to. I understand. I sit down next to her. She lays her head against my shoulder.

Tears stream down her face. A single tear drips down mine

Rowan was her light in the darkness, she had told me before. She had hated her life. But then she had Rowan. She had something to live for.

Me? I loved Rowan too. I could never love him as much as Eliana did, but I loved him just the same.

In some ways he was also my light in the darkness. He had stood up for me when no one else did. He showed me the importance of everything and that everything deserves a chance. 

He was a vegan. 

He was a believer in magic.

He was our light in the darkness.

And he was Rowan.

April 21, 2021 16:00

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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