By Sofie Kagan
I can hear it, low and quiet, but I’m sure it’s there. I move swiftly through the mass of bodies dotting the train station and head toward the direction I heard the sound coming from. It’s like this urge, this sticky feeling eating me up inside that’s making me feel compelled to follow it, to figure out who’s there, who’s saying my name.
It’s a hot and muggy day, the kind where you have to duck into a store with air conditioning every so often to get a break from swelling heat but there’s nowhere to go out here by the tracks, everyone waiting for the train. I can feel the sun beating down on my back as I push through people and avoid a near-miss with a stroller. I start to get a bit dizzy, my mouth starts feeling dry and there’s sweat trickling down my forehead. I wet my mouth with a swallow and try to ignore these uncomfortable feelings, I can’t let them take me over. They’re just feelings…just feelings I repeat over and over again to myself as I continue walking, steps rhythmic with one another and the people around me.
There’s an announcement over the loudspeaker, I think, but it flies over my head, I’m only focused on the sound that I heard and figuring out where it came from. I continue toward it, I’m sure I’m getting closer though I’m not quite sure where I’m going. There are so many people that I suddenly feel suffocated. I desperately need to find who was calling my name, I need help.
I swerve away from a tall man in a business suit carrying a leather briefcase and a gruff-looking expression, and I can’t help but think that he looks familiar. I’ve seen probably hundreds of faces today in this bustling terminal, but none have registered as he just did in my mind. He moves by too quickly and as I turn to get another look at him he’s gone through the maze of people behind me. I watch as his top hat disappears amongst the thick heads of hair and differently shaped hats. When it’s gone, blended into the mass of heads around it, I feel as though I’ve instantly just missed something important in life. Like I was on the edges of something so near to me, but it fell out of my grasp just as quickly as I’d found it. I start to feel overwhelmed at the thought of it, and my head hurts. I can't do anything right.
I’m frozen in one place as people stream into me from all directions. Suddenly, I don’t know if it’s the heat or the utter exhaustion, but I start looking at them all differently. They all look the same, they’re all people, they’re all going someplace, they’re all in their own little worlds, on their own little paths, just like me. I feel like I can’t breathe. It looks like they can’t breathe either. The existential crisis comes creeping into my sticky brain. It slowly gets stuck like glue to my prefrontal cortex taking up all the space surrounding it till I start to get the sensation that my head might just simply explode altogether. Thoughts circulate ‘round and ‘round my mind. Ones I don’t know the answer to. What am I? What is my path? What if I have no path?
The feeling is back roaring in my insides and I pick up my stride. I must find the voice that is calling my name, it’s the answer, it’s my path, it knows where I’m going. I dodge people left and right and manage not to hit anyone. It’s quite a task considering the number of people surrounding me in this busy area, but I’ve had much practice.
It seems as though this unspecified location is simply getting farther and farther away the closer I get to it. I don’t understand what’s happening. It feels like the entire universe, my entire being is exploding into the stars and I can’t make it stop. I just want it all to stop. My brain, my stomach, my legs, it all feels inhuman. I don’t know what’s happening to me. Something deep inside me roars for more.
All of a sudden everyone around me is getting on a train, my train, I hadn’t realized it had even pulled into the station. It’s funny how life works like that. Things come at you, they happen when you least expect them. Especially the important ones. It doesn’t matter though because I don’t care. I only care that I feel really, really, near the voice now.
“All aboard to SAME VILLE!” the trainmaster calls but I don’t hear him. I don’t hear anything. My ears are numb and my throat is so dry it’s closed up altogether. I try to shake my head but my senses won’t come back to me. Nothing will come back to me. I don’t have anything.
People empty the walkway and I can feel the weight lifting off my shoulders, the walls, and the claustrophobia melting like the sweat on my skin. It feels like taking off an itchy sweater that was giving my neck a rash. I feel…free. It’s just me now as the train picks up the pace and rushes away leaving a large refreshing wind cooling me down. It’s settling and calming, and it feels like it puts things into place, into perspective. It helps me realize where I am.
So I guess I’m there, I mean I’m really here. I know it’s here. As I get there I look up. There’s a mirror with the shiny bright sun reflecting off of it. When I step in front of it, it’s me staring back. I’m wearing a top hat and a business suit carrying a leather briefcase.
“Greggory…” the man in the mirror calls.
In this shimmering golden silence, apart from all the noise, I finally get a glimpse. A glimpse of myself apart from the crowd. It’s harsh and imperfect, but I know I need to accept it and love it to get out of its way and step into my own shoes. There is no air left for my fire suffocated by the crowd, but here in the emptiness of this deserted platform, I can finally breathe and see my spark. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay not to do what everyone else does, go on the train they are going on, do what they do or be who they are. I don’t have to worry and keep up with their demands. I can be me and take my time. Wait for another train. Go to a different place and live my own life. I don’t have to be the crowd to be an important part of one.
The platform is getting tight and claustrophobic again, but I feel different about it now. When I look down at my ticket still gripped lightly between my clammy fingers, miraculously the destination has changed. It no longer says “Same Ville”, I’m now headed to “Village Reale,” and I can’t tell if I’m more afraid or excited, but frankly, it doesn’t matter. I have a second chance, and this time I’m getting on that train and riding it till the end.