Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Simplicity: Touch

(Third in a series of vignettes exploring the basic needs of human life. Prior needs: Shelter, Light.)

The crowds threaded through each other across the expanse of the station. The sound flowed like an undercurrent. Voices and sharp footfalls.

"Thanks for giving me a ride today," she said.

"No trouble," he said. "Hey, what are neighbors for, right?"

She smiled. "Yeah."

The numbers and names on the train board spun.

The clicking sound was quaint. The dials turned and turned, then stopped one after another like a giant slot machine.

He struggled to find something good to say. "You got everything?"


"You travel light."

"No use carrying much. I shipped almost everything."

He half caught a toddler who bounced into his legs and directed him off towards his mother. "Are you looking forward to staying at your parents' while you get set up in Chicago?"

"No. Not really."

"I don't blame you. Wouldn't want to stay with mine either."

He looked down at the suitcase scuffs on the floor.

He always had trouble enduring her eyes. Bumping into her in the hall outside his apartment was cool. She was kind of quiet. Always listening. Something in the way she looked at him make him fumble for the doorknob, though.

The schedule board flipped again.

"Oh, hey, did you--"

A voice erupted in the huge expanse. The echoes of marble and grand archways crisscrossed and mixed.

The train to Chicago was boarding.

"That's me," she said.

"Okay. Yeah."

"Thanks again."

"Oh, anytime," he said. Of course there wouldn't be a next time. What a stupid thing to say.

She glanced over at the platform stairs and the people converging.

His heart was pounding.

"I'm sorry to see you go," he said.

"Me too."

Those same eyes looked back at him. This time, he had nothing to lose.

For once, she broke away.

He moved to offer his hand, but hesitated.

She took a half step too, then laughed.

"We're pretty pathetic," she said.

"Yes, we are."

An attendant unhooked the red rope, and heads drifted down the escalator. People pressed tighter.

No more time.

The shock of their hug didn't register. He simply felt the high points of her shape. Her weight. Her undeniable presence.

He sank into them. And she squeezed tighter.

That feeling burned into him.

Then, she was away. Her steps hurried to the escalator.

Before he remembered to breathe, she was gone.


anne said...

Ooh I like! Despite the... pessimism is not the word I'm looking for, but it'll have to do.
Seize the day and all that, eh?!

SzélsőFa said...

It is interesting to see 'touch' in a context between two people who will most likely never see and touch each other again.
I liked how he 'sank into' the touch. That is so well captured.

//On a side note - this is not the 'second', but the third in the series :)

Bernita said...

Shy and sweet.
Thank you, Jason.

Chris Eldin said...

A fleeting touch, a lingering feeling. Very lovely and sentimental!

DBA Lehane said...

Reminded me of something Raymond Carver may have written. Beautifully written and touching. Only change I would have made was to have started with the dialogue and let the setting evolve from there. The first two sentances kind of read like screenplay setting for me and fely a little "clunky" compared to what followed.

Anonymous said...

Anne, yes, seize the day! When Aine read it, she saw hope. I like that interpretation.

Szelsofa, maybe to experience it at all brings a kind of hope. The future can never be predicted. (Thanks for pointing out the error! I corrected it.)

Bernita, thanks. :)

Church Lady, some of the things we miss, we probably miss for no good reason. I imagine it's better to be proved foolish than to remain foolish without seeing it.

DBA Lehane, I always like hearing comparisons. It gives me a better sense of what I'm doing. And thanks for the feedback! I originally had the dialog first, but decided it might be hard to get the context. Those lines were quickly done. I touched them up a bit, because I wasn't thrilled with them either.

Sarah Hina said...

This is so true, Jason. Every inch, and moment, rang clean. The schedule board was a brilliant stroke. I can hear it flipping as the couple disengages. With him missing her high points.

Beautiful vignette. Leaves us with a bit of that ache.

The Anti-Wife said...

Lovely and poignant.

virtual nexus said...

Love the way the photograph works with the piece with such subtlety.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, to a writer, those sentiments mean everything. It's such a delicate thing to weave scene details, dialog, and motion and create something in words that feels alive and true. Thanks for tell me. :) If folks feel some of that ache, but also the inspiration to take the plunge, then I've achieved what I set off to do.

Anti-Wife, much appreciated.

Julie, taking pictures with a camera phone has freed me up to take some city pictures. I feel weird walking around with the SLR, not even counting the risk of toting it on the train.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Oh I really really really liked this one. It felt so real and so wistful. I could read stuff like this all the time. That's why I love your blog.

Missy said...

Jason, you really caught that rejection-fearing hesitation that ALWAYS occurs with such a deep desire to touch. Usually the fear wins. I'm glad it doesn't here since it seems they will most likely never meet again.

Steve H said...

Before he remembered to breathe, she was gone - that line is wonderful...

Cléa said...

Beautifully written. It engages all the senses as if one was part of the scene.

Terri said...

Oh dear, a case of too little, too late, perhaps? I found myself reading quickly to see what happened next... nice piece :-)

Angela said...

LOVE IT JASON! The awkwardness and atmosphere of so much unsaid. I could really feel the tension - (sexual?) between them.

Jaye Wells said...

This was sweet and very true to life. You captured the awkwardness and longing so well.

virtual nexus said...

Interesting - I use the camera phone on occasion; but have just bought a good compact(Canon IXUS 950) which is way beyond the quality I've had before even at modest res. Plus its neat pocket size, so less obtrusive.

This fusion of combining poetry, flash fiction or whatever and photos is a fascinating blog phenomenon.

Abhinav said...

I nothing left to say. I'm touched.

It's rare for American authors to maintain the simplicity in a narrative that can hold the attention of readers around the world. They assume too much and write as such. I think this narrative is one of the exceptions in that it is the sort can appeal to a global audience hungry for stories.

Anonymous said...

Ello, very glad you liked it. I have to admit that I suddenly have the urge to do a genre piece or two. I think I need a little break from digging down into emotions.

Missy, even if these two don't meet again, maybe they'll be less fearful in their next opportunity to reach out.

Hotwire, much appreciated!

Bemused, high praise. :) That's the #1 thing I shoot for.

Terri, yes, too little too late with a touch of better-late-than-never.

Angela, yes, a huge amount of tension there.

Jaye, it's fun to create that awkwardness with dialog and little touches of movement/description.

Julie, so true about the photo/writing/video fusion. I'll be posting a new movie in the foreseeable future. As for cameras, I'm also sensitive after 9/11. Taking pictures in the city or the transportation system could be seen as threatening.

Abhinav, if this amazing internet experience has taught me nothing else, it has taught me how similar we all are across cultures. I take it as high praise that I captured something universal here.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. So many unspoken elements here of our common human longing for connection, and all our frailties too. Really well done.

Vesper said...

Beautiful, Jason. Very real. To me too, it holds hope.