Oddly rhythmic, sitting here like this. The jolting movement became a comforting dullness of my background. Like a baby still in its mothers’ belly, that’s how we feel sitting here. There is no urgency or rebellion, only the self sedation of acceptance. Keeping count of time was impossible so I was unsure of when I became disconnected with my other half.
I still knew of its existence but an anxiety-laced thought provoked me that I would soon forget about it, or them, or me, I suppose. My other half is still me.
Day and night were eternally blended across the skies and a golden sunset bathed the scenery. I couldn’t pick apart the details so I focused on the Gestalt; a rolling meadow, then some trees, then hills, then something familiar again. I occasionally laid my forehead on the glass and felt the vibrations, the chattering filling up my ears.
Then my mind would drift off. I was doing less of this since it became easier to drone off and focus on passing view. Maybe I was growing tired and my slipping attention was just because of that and nothing else, like the other me.
I had climbed aboard, that was certain. They hauled my luggage in a compartment at the end of the train, and my daypack slung off my shoulder as I carried it with me to my seat. The conductor welcomed us and told us our destination. . .told us our destination? Surely, that was the procedure. All I recalled was the cheery hello, and the rest was muffled.
There was nothing next to me on the seat, but memory is subjective. I wasn’t worried, I was sleepy. I’ll accept this for now. I checked my wrist to find my watch gone. The tan lines were beginning to fade but this habit still gripped me. A crack into the muffled memory, like a warm cherry pie on my birthday. You won’t need your watch sir. It’s useless once you climb on board.
It was a special birthday. My mother always insisted on pie instead of cake, so that’s what we did. That’s what I had passed on to my kids. I wrote them a letter before I left, that’s what I’d done. I slipped it onto their nightstand and smoothed over their foreheads with a kiss. Then I picked up my bags. . .
My other half broke the stillness and I lost it! The fragile picture slipped away and the haze rose again.
“What do you want?” I asked. It blinked at me slowly from the other side of the window. “Why can’t you get off this train?”
“What do you want? Why can’t you get off this train?”
I scoffed. This was me, what was I expecting?
My other half mirrored my words but not my actions. It sat there and watched me, gazing off into another world.
I hadn’t thought of food since I’d gotten here but I now smelled my birthday cherry pie like I was sitting on the wooden kitchen table and mama was opening the oven door, sweet-scented heat misting over her glasses. She’d put it directly on the table hot from the oven and then she and I would watch it cool down as dad and neighbors started pooling into the house.
I pressed my index finger to my thumb and middle finger and pressed down, mocking the shape I’d hold a pen in. Tracing words in the air was easy and I recognized the familiar swiftness of my signature. I recalled this up and down motion, scribbling ink onto pages. What had I written that was so important? My kids, four and what? My cheeks burned.
It was soothing watching the birds swoop together in the same formation, dipping into the orange clouds and then curving up again. The warmth of the golden sky, I’m sure they felt it gliding through their feathers.
I’d forgotten there were other passengers here. They were quiet, lost in their own windows, asking the same questions. I couldn’t see any of their other halves but I felt them lingering outside the train. We sit here together, separated by miles of experiences.
“When is my birthday?” I asked.
“When is my birthday?”
Wetness on my face, tears rolling down my neck. It was both foreign and familiar, and I hated how it pricked my inside emotional being, plucking my ribs like strings. This hurt, it had stopped since we’d left the station. Why had it returned?
I was bored. I wanted to stand up and stretch my legs. I wanted to breathe in fresh air and hug my child, kiss my. . .my whoever I kiss, and eat cherry pie. Piles and piles of them, I’d purchase them from the purchase place and I can walk in places. I can do things. I don’t know what things.
“Who was I?”
“Who was I?”
I watched the other being with interest. I swore I had seen those eyes before, but where had before been?
I felt a presence dip into the seat next to me, the warm energy of someone else. My lethargic body remained facing the window.
“Hello. I hope you’ve been enjoying your time on this train. Would you like to stay here and watch for a little while longer?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. I’d really like to get some air. And breathe again. I’d like something sweet, actually. Do you serve pie here by any chance? I want to remember it. In fact, I really would like to remember it.”
“Are you sure you’d like to go back? It’s quite cold outside. But we could make a stop if you really desire it.”
“Yes, I would. But would the other train stop, too? My other half is still on board there.”
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to contact them. You would be walking out of here with only half of what you were. We would not be able to let you back on board. You would be stuck there.”
“I would be stuck there forever?”
“It will be cold for a long time.”
Staring at the window, words come out. “Then I will stay forever.”