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In the endless yesterday

A Short Story by Ruben De Escapado

By Ruben De EscapadoPublished 2 years ago 20 min read
2

I’ll go for a walk. When I have punched out and looked out on the rest of a senseless day. The train station was down the road from my house, and I’d figure a way to drag my feet further. Not too fatigued from work but exhausted from life. The only thing heavier than my soles were the bags under my eyes. They always drooped when I passed my apartment complex heading toward the station. I’d stare at the front door and feel like I knew what was behind it. I don’t know. I always think about that quote on Abraham Lincoln and his ax. I am compelled in two directions, forward and back. Back feels natural, but the whole day was back. I need something forward. Pushing toward the train stations with a shadow made of sand.

Once or twice, I thought about going into the city. Whenever going somewhere was entertained, if it didn’t start with the countryside, it always ended with it. There was this green hill. Or there is this green hill. It’s hard to tell. Sometimes when I sit at the train station, watching the trains pass, I can see it vividly; it glows with the sun's warmth. Once, the sky turned grey and began to pour on me. A soft pour that held my shirt with each passing drop. I was stuck on the sight of this glowing green hill with pine trees and running water somewhere in the background. It was difficult to tell if it was my imagination or a distant memory, but I was confident it was real. Every day after work, I’d go down to the train station to see if the blur of silver and red would show it to me again.

It never did. I can still feel the echo of its sight, but the way I once saw it may never happen again. It also can. There is only one way to know, so I go every day after work and sometimes on Sunday mornings. But if it actually never showed. I’d be okay with it. I have gotten a lot from going to the train station. Sometimes I think maybe it’s impossible to think beyond your surroundings. Since going, I have learned so much about moving forward. Or at least what I think about it. Maybe. Wherever I end up with my thoughts, it always puts me in a good place before I go into my apartment. Sitting there on a slightly stiff couch with all the books I read instead of living. Well, I lived through them, I guess. Some provide me solace. Others remind me of difficult lessons that sometimes I am just not up to entertaining. But I entertain them because I have no choice. That’s why I go on my walks. Not entertaining my thoughts is significantly worse. I grab pen and paper, exploring every single one. Then I think about my notes while I cook some dinner and smoke. Some soft jazz playing off my record player, filling these lonely walls with sweet solitude.

There are two portraits on my wall. I stare at them as I eat. The one to the right is a Samurai contemplating seppuku, and the one to the left is a copy of The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky. It’s difficult to say where I would go as I consumed the paintings and took in my meal. But in these moments of silent animalism, I felt like I understood the art beyond words. I understood the painter’s emotions and the will behind each decision and action. There were times I felt I could see the Russian painter’s childhood in the refraction of light on the waves. I always felt that when one day somebody would find my body, they’d also find my several attempts to replicate The Ninth Wave, getting closer and closer each time. I found a great deal of peace in knowing that this moment would exist and that the only time I would ever be understood—I’d miss it. The Japanese style emphasizes the toll on the solitary samurai’s shoulders. The meal and contemplation had returned the weight in my feet and my conscious awareness of them. I slowly washed the dishes and lit some candles. I’d shower and hide my tears in the running water.

I’d smoke a little more and have chamomile tea. Really relax me for a deep slumber. But on this night, I decided to masturbate. The decision wasn’t pre-determined; I put up a good deal of resistance but succumbed to another moment of pleasure. There was a client that came into the bank today. She had large lips and eyes like a small animal. She comes in regularly, and we are distant but friendly. Today she made eyes with me, and her stare has lingered ever since. Like she imagined it too and wanted me to know. That was enough for the flame of this erotica to last. Had we acted upon it, our personalities would ruin the passion. At this moment, we are ideas with bodies full of whatever potential we want to fill them with. Some days she was a librarian, other days a tutor, my classmate, my lawyer. On other days she held my hand as I was wrapped in linen sheets above her. I’d think of us walking in Botanical Gardens or Central Park or down fifth avenue. That last one, not so much. Quality time was nice but unrealistic. I could see through the facade of it faster. She never spoke in those daydreams; she didn’t do anything other than be pretty and stand by my side. Because I knew if I gave her…herself, I’d lose her. I’d find a way to ruin the relationship in my head and then end the fantasy. The fantasy was providing my days with a touch of pleasure before dreaming.

I smothered my satisfaction and wrapped myself in the blankets. Some moonlight shone in through the window. I have been sleeping with the blinds open recently. Waking up to the sunrise has been helping. But on the night where the client with lush lips made eyes at me in a fever dream of convulsion and satisfaction. I didn’t wake to a sunrise. I awoke inside a confined bathroom. The walls were thick plastic, the sink was tucked under the mirror, and the toilet was chrome. The door was long, with a railing running across. The dirty mirror showed me a shirtless man. I looked down, and I had on my blue plad pajama pants. A pair of moccasin slippers. I felt my feet inside the furry comfort. There was no denying what they were telling me. We were moving.

I grabbed the handle and slowly slid it out. Damn. I thought. Damn. Damn. Damn. All I saw was a blue and green leather seat. A window with a brick wall whooshing by. Damn it all. I was on a train. The metro north. My mother used to tell me a story that I slept walked when I was younger. But that was years ago. I suppose the mind is vastly beyond momentary comprehension. Something could trigger an old habit. The trigger isn’t relevant right now. No, it is relevant because it confirms the validity of the claim. I quickly ran back to the events of the day. Recalling any moment that gave me anything that could be related to discomfort. After running through the day, it was chucked up to be a combination of things far beyond my conscious capacities of probability and possibility. A trigger or a series of triggers could have happened, causing me to retreat into my mind and activate an old habit. An instinctual drive to seek comfort led my body to take the route it had memorized. It led me to the train station, but instead of waiting at the station, I got on the train for some reason beyond me. Maybe the energy in each person’s gravitational pole attracted my matter. Perhaps I became overcome with the desire for movements after being stuck in my day. The possibilities were endless, but I needed two or three realistic ones to act on. Why I was in the bathroom was also beyond me, but I knew that I couldn’t wait in here all day.

I’ll get up and slip into the first seat I see. I’ll explain my situation to the conductor. “Hello, Mr. Conductor.”—shit, no. “Hey, I am in a situation. I slept walked onto the train, and I don’t have my wallet or a ticket.”. He will either be understanding or overly understanding and think I am a homeless junkie looking for a free ride. I am clean and in pajamas. He could believe me.

With a few deep breaths, I cracked the door open and looked out. Two seats were available in front of me; I slipped out and into the row at their sight. Making myself as small as possible against the wall. Maybe I can drop out at the next stop. At least then, I don’t run the risk of being arrested, just a long and embarrassing walk home. The next stop never came. I waited for about twenty minutes before dozing off again. Exhausted from my day and the thoughts of linen sheets. I woke up, and it was unclear how long I had slept. It couldn’t have been that long. The windows still showed darkness and the woosh of bricks. I looked at the small horizontal monitor above the seats to see what stop was next. But the red letters had retreated. The sign was dark, and the seats were missing the back of heads. I stood all the way up and looked around me. This was the last train car, and it was completely empty. I could see out the back, and there was an eerie darkness. The tracks on the floor illuminated by the headlights facing backward were rapidly consumed by black. I then looked forward and saw the other cars had been brought to light.

I would kill for a cup of coffee right now. There is clearly a problem, and I am too damn tired to deal with it. My options feel so limited. I can stay and wait. Hope that help comes back here. Risk falling asleep again, but still, that’s one option. Another option is I am in the last car, and it is empty. Anyone else on this train needs to be in front of me. I rested my forehead on the seat in front of me for a few minutes and saw that I had no choice. I got up and stormed forward. Not looking back once.

I arrived at the double doors. The windows to my left and right showed whooshing bricks. A suspiciously long tunnel. When I pried the door open, I stepped into the in-between. The next door was heavy and difficult to open. The moments I spent trying to open it felt like the wind was screaming and the pollution wrapped around me.

But the door did open, and it funneled the noise out upon its closure. Returning us to temporary silence. This car was empty as well. I began to long for my seat on the back of the train. I turned around only to see the headlights facing backward. Momentary tracks are consumed by darkness.

Now is not the time to freak out. I found myself imagining the paintings in my apartment. My very distant apartment with my warm bed. The paintings. We need to move forward. Priority number one is to get off this train. The second is to get back to the apartment. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

Storming forward once more. When I got to the double doors, I looked at the continuing of whooshing grey bricks. I stepped out and heard the screams; felt the dirt and grime. Forced my way through. In a step, I pivoted to see that behind me were headlights that allowed tracks to be consumed by the dark. My fear had transitioned to anger. I sprinted forward as fast as I could. The whooshing bricks were in my peripheral. I swung the door open. Pulled open the second and ran all the way through an empty train car without looking back. I swung the door open again, grabbed the second, and pushed through. This time collapsing onto the floor. When I got up and looked through the window of both doors, I saw an empty car behind instead of tracks being consumed.

I began making my way slowly through this car which was empty as well. The whooshing brick remained outside both windows. Everything was seemingly consistent until the moment before I was halfway through. Whispers. They kept breezing by my ears. Only giving me a piece. They began to bombard me with fragments of my nightmares. My worst fears. Leaving only enough for me to follow with my imagination. The passage on my appearance. On my loneliness. On my wealth. My lack of success. My relationships with my siblings. My relationship with my parents. With my friends. They were crippling me. I was following them, releasing unknown amounts of burdens upon my shoulders. At the opening, halfway space reserved for the door, I crumbled. Crippled by the weight of all my fear and insecurities, I collapsed to the floor. I was a momentary warrior sprinting, more away from my fear than toward something. I was on the verge of tears when the whoosh of bricks took the whispers away. I stood. The train car was completely silent. I was almost amused by how much I had been at the mercy of my own imagination. I stood up, relieved that all the pain I had just experienced was self-inflicted. I began slowly walking to the front of the train.

As I rested my hand on the back of the seats, one of the cool leather sensations asked me, “What if it wasn’t?”. But it was. “Okay, even if it was, does that mean it’s not real?”. I suppose it is still real. The pain and the response were all natural, but if I inflicted it, I have the power to not inflict it. “That isn’t necessarily true. What makes you think you have control over your body?”. Well, for the most part, I do have control over my body. “Except in that instance right there? What about when you go through the motions of your job? What about when you sleepwalk onto a train? What about your physical desires that you cover through elaborate fantasies?”. I don’t know. “Come to think of it, there is a lot that you don’t know, isn’t there?”. When will I die? When will I talk to her? What am I waiting for? “What are you waiting for? You’re not getting younger. You’re not getting any better looking?” I am not young or good-looking. “No. No, you are not.”. What is happening to me? “Exactly my point. You’re an absolute mess.”

I had arrived at the car's door having forgotten I was walking. The whooshing brought me back. I looked at my reflection closely and decided. I opened the first door, stepped out, opened the second door, and stepped in. Whatever was coming needed to come. I needed to get off this train.

The bricks were still whooshing by, but the train seemed to have picked up momentum. We were going faster. To my confusion, this train car was the opposite of empty but also embodied the essence of emptiness. In every single seat sat a mannequin. Men, women, children’s figures. Dressed in clothing from the early 2000s. It was a confusing disaster that almost took away from the horror of these lifeless figurines. I felt compelled to judge the combinations, but at some point in my life, I thought this was cool. I more judged that. How different I was in my past. A sheep of whatever was trending and moving. I felt sorry for the mannequins stuck on this train that was just moving without them. But I noticed something peculiar as I moved forward. It felt like each row’s outfits were evolving. It became evident when I stood in between and looked forward and back. The front of the car had mannequins wearing outfits I had seen the day before. The back of the train had outfits I had seen when I was a kid. It looked like each row moving forward showed the evolution of costumes I had witnessed throughout the years. Some were subtle and represented the times. Others were outlandish, and they represented the times too. Each represents in different ways.

I didn’t know anymore. This train is on an endless tunnel. Maybe the question shouldn’t be when will I die, but did I die already? Is this hell or some version of the afterlife? This train is not standard. If this is all a dream, it’s the most vivid I have ever had. It could be, but we came from the end; the answer is in front of us. As I approached the door for the next car, a mannequin about my size was wearing a navy suit, a white shirt, a black tie, and a black belt. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t have to go there in pajama bottoms. I took a moment to undress the mannequin and put on the clothes. I even put the tie and the blazer on. I felt like James Bond or just a professional person. I looked at my reflection and knew it would be perfect if I didn’t look down. The shoes didn’t fit, so I wore my navy spy suit and brown moccasins.

I stepped into the next car in a state of wonder. The vehicle was bare. It was an empty tube with a floor and two walls lined with windows. The only door was directly across from me, and no seats. The bareness of the car made the other side seem so much further away than before. The wonder began in the car, but I transformed once it found what was beyond the windows. I collapsed to my knees and stared out the window as my own brush strokes came to life. We were in the animation of my countless replicas of The Ninth Wave. The molasses-paced waves and the survivors' slow, distant screams brought life to a still painting. The waves crashed in slow motion, but the completeness of their sound allowed me to imagine what it could have been. I was drowning in it. Watching as the waves came in.

Real art—my art brought to life. But then the waves began to rock the car. Slowly, but rock them, nonetheless. I wobbled to my feet and touched my hand to the glass. I stumbled my way to the front of the train car. Took a final look at the setting sun and made my way through. In the next car, I saw the sun had set, and the sailors were still caught in the storm. The waves were still slow but more ferocious. I had no time to stop and contemplate. It felt as though the car would turn over. I moved quickly and anxiously to the sound of falling rain and a tired captain yelling in the thunder, “Don’t give up yet, boys. Hold on!”. I didn’t stay to inspect, but the brush strokes remained familiar despite the painting never existing.

I gripped the handle and pushed my way through. The next car revealed a painting of a still ocean at dawn. Everyone still holding on to the debris. One person sitting up and looking out. The waves had calmed, and so had the rocking. Yet you could hear the distant rain and rocking of the previous car. I looked at this lone man sitting up and contemplating his night on the sea. I found something in me through him, and I stood up and took off my tie.

I walked to the end of the car. Looked back at the lone man. Looked at my reflection and took a deep breath. I opened the door, and like clockwork, the screams and the pollution engulfed me. I pushed open the next door, and there was darkness. A green light directly across from me showed where the door was, but it was pitch black. I walked with caution. Heel to toe, then put my weight on that leg. Taking my time and making no sudden movements. My breathing was faint but in control. The essence of the lone man still lingered. The image of the still ocean was visceral. I concentrated all my energy on it and walking and breathing and a still ocean and walking and breathing and your okay and a still ocean and a lone man and walking and breathing. Until I got to the other side. My hand found the handle in the dark, and I walked through a double door.

I almost unconsciously took off my slippers and was barefoot in my suit. I had stepped into a dojo. Where four samurai sat on each side of the train. A total of sixteen, for a masked samurai, hovered over each of them. The eight sat in Seiza and looked down at the small blade in front of them. I looked outside and saw the front of the train was only one more car away. It was modern cars being pulled by a locomotive. I saw the train on a tall bridge bending around a glowing green hill. Behind it a running river and pine trees. It was as vivid as it was on the day it poured upon me. It made my eyeballs feel light and electric. I watched as each blade glimmered. It was all interrupted by a spew of sounds. Then the whistle of 8 katanas. The thumping of eight more heads. I looked at the once white train car dojo now stained with slashes of blood. The heads of samurai rolled out into the aisle. The masked samurai standing still with their backs pressed against the wall.

I take in the green hill, and something in me knows it was never meant to be. The realest thing about it was that it was beyond my reach. I walked barefoot through the blood of headless samurai, still at the sight of bloody katanas and kidneys. I move through into the final room.

There she was. Standing there in a white summer dress with blue flowers. She looked like fine china. Those eyes looking at me. Her lush lips gently parted. Her skin was warm and inviting. I looked out the window, and it was all a plane of white. Endless. The only thing of color was the tall bridge that went down endlessly. She had her hands behind her back as she strode over to the record player in the corner. She grabbed Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. The record scratched on, “In a Sentimental Mood,” came in. My favorite. Her hands were still tucked behind her back as she walked over to me. Unsure of herself, she finally spoke. “Dance with me?”. I walked toward her leaving bloody footprints stamped on the dance floor. She reached out and bit into the pastry of her bottom lip. Her hands were soft and nimble. We pulled each other in. I grabbed my wrist and squeezed it tightly. She wrapped her hands behind my neck. I squeezed and squeezed. I needed to know this wasn’t a dream. This needed to be confirmed. We pressed foreheads and swayed. I’d look down, and her white heals began to scuff with red. In a Sentimental Mood,” looped for I don’t know how long. I could have been stuck in that dance forever for all I cared. But no matter how much her light eyes looked back at me. No matter how good her smell of lavender was. The way her breasts pressed upon my chest. The way she brought her lips to my ears and whispered how she loved me. Of how she would do anything for me. She wasn’t real. She was the idea this couldn’t be her. I spun her one final time. Watched as her hair and skirt found her shoulders and thighs with the same grace. She saw me taking her in.

“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”

“Yes. I am.”

“You’re going to leave me behind, forever.”

“Only if forever is beyond that door.”

“You know it is.”

“But forever could be here?”

She looked at me with the eyes of a scared small animal. They begged me to stay. She began to slowly remove the dress from her shoulders. I didn’t want her to stop but knew I needed her to. I couldn’t do this again.

“Please. Don’t. I want to remember you exactly how you are.”

I grabbed her hand one final time. I pulled her in and kissed those lips I had longed for. The kiss was everything I could dream of and more. I felt a fantastic warmth come over me. When I pulled away, there was just the glimmer of stardust.

I turned toward the final door separating the cars from the locomotive. The memory of the bathroom came to me. Then the tracks were consumed by the darkness. It all played through quickly. The men at sea. The whispers. Her. A million times her. I’ll never forget the way we held each other.

I stepped through. The screams of the wind came in. The pollution from the coal engine engulfed me. I could climb up and look back and see all the cars from which I came. There was a station in the distance, but the more I looked at it, the further we got from it. I climbed forward to see what was going on in the front, and the tracks were being laid as they came into the light of the train. There was a man ceaselessly shoveling coal into the fire. The conductor.

“Hey, buddy. Mr. Conductor. Can you tell me what’s going on? Where are we going?”

He stopped, wiped his sweat from his forehead, and smiled. A clean smile compared to his charcoaled outfit.

“Some say what’s going on is relative, but that seems pretty universal to me.”

“What does that mean?”

“We are heading wherever everyone else is. We are just taking your route. Rest up. Your time to relieve me is coming.”

With that, he continued to shovel and ignored me. I climbed back up top and looked out at the station turning into a spec, like most of the track. I looked back, knowing I could never return to those cars. I wish I had stayed and just danced with her. Now I am stuck and alone. That’s when I noticed the train had begun to slow. I looked down and saw that the conductor’s hat, gloves, and shovel were there, but he was not. As I climbed back down to see what was happening, I could hear the scaffolding of the bridge begin to crunch under the still pressure. I quickly threw on the gloves and hat. I began shoveling the coal into the fire. I was working hard, but I never grew tired. It was only when I wiped my sweat that I saw into the car behind me. There she was. Slowly dancing with the conductor but looking at me. I smiled at her, and she made eyes at me.

I continued to shovel the coal. Keeping the train moving. Until someone came to relieve me. Or until the end of time. We will wait and see what comes first.

Short Story
2

About the Creator

Ruben De Escapado

Most know me as a poet sitting on a park bench in Central Park. Writing poetry for strangers. Before that I lived a life and learned a few things. Now I listen to what the world had to teach others. Believe in yourself and be honest. Okay.

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