The cold wind blew gently across the table, strewing the wisps of steam that were rising from my morning tea. I glanced down at the notebook under my hands – splotches of pale blue ink were colliding with tea stains, as if each hue were the front lines of a battle; overlapping, but never mixing.
The station burst into life as an old clock that oversaw the cafe struck 7.
People poured in like ants, all but drowning the screeches and rumbles of passing trains. I paused my scribblings and took a moment to view the liveliness around me. Men trotted quickly with suitcases in hand while women dragged along trolleys. Some children held their parents’ hands, yet others chased each other through the crowds, darting between a labyrinth of workers and passengers. Boys and girls chattered about the weather, about the news, about their colleges, about their lovers. Everybody seemed to know somebody.
All I knew was that I did not.
It was the same every morning; I would sit at this very table, sipping the exact same flavour of tea, seeing people live their lives day by day, watching them make the same mistakes. And I was content. I couldn’t wish for more.
My train of thought halted – as did the actual train – when the rather accented voice of Mr. Coleman blared out of the speakers. “Platform 4! All passengers to Port Reid please be noted that your train will be leaving in 5 minutes! Thank you.” The speaker crackled with static as the man coughed, and I heard him mutter bitter words in a foreign language I could scarcely understand.
Port Reid. The name conjures memories I’d rather leave locked in the dustiest corners of my conscience. I remembered my brother, who I have not seen in the years following the war. I remembered the smell of fish wafting across the streets. I remembered – so vividly – a painting we used to admire.
Mr. Coleman’s voice returned as he spluttered the final calls into the speakers. I smiled, knowing how much the fellow despised his job and longed to be at the lead engine as he oversaw endless rails and felt the rumble of wheels beneath his feet. But – as I have come to learn – life keeps switching rails when you least expect it, and suddenly you are tumbling in a completely new direction.
Needless to say, it was at that very moment that my life switched rails. A man in an overcoat stepped towards my table, laying down a white leather suitcase beside my empty cup of tea. He gave a weary smile before walking off towards Platform 4. I scarcely had time to shout before the figure disappeared into the crowd.
Dazed and afraid, I let my gaze wander onto the suitcase. It was dull, scratch-covered and rough. Then something caught my eye. Tied onto the zipper with a thick piece of string was a paper note, scarcely bigger than my palm.
It read something I wouldn’t have expected to see in years. It was my brother’s name.
The last of the passengers hurried into the train to Port Reid. I caught a glimpse of the mysterious man as he entered the locomotive.
For the first time in my life, I ran.