I was waiting by the tracks on a platform sitting on an empty steel bench where a beam from the weekend ether is cascaded down through an opening of the plastic transparent sunroof. The rustic smell from the old neighboring provinces flooded the air. There were not many people there yet, it was still early and so the sight is pretty much the usual vacated scene at this time of the day.
I had my left arm folded resting atop a luggage bag beside me, while the knuckles were pressed against the temple of my head. I just finished drinking coffee from a local inn, and I did not mind waiting. In fact, I was lingering at the moment while it was still mine to savor.
Not borrowers, but I guess we are the temporary owners of these fragments we call moments. Or at least we attempt to steal these from the overly stretched time we have left.
A dog-eared paperback book was occupying the other hand, laying it flat open across my right arm. I was caught between the lines that stuck with me for quite some time. Somehow, I couldn’t get past the words. I was rereading the same chapter over and over, and it was an indication that I was not getting anywhere obviously, and should give it a rest for the meantime.
Or was I becoming too engrossed?
Quite not sure.
Faceless people began to appear. I heard them coming from the steps but not rushing. From the sound of their voices, I was assuming that they were college students talking about school stuff and a professor that I thought they hated.
I turned to their direction to see, a mere mechanical reaction I guess, or maybe I was looking for a momentary amusement. I was in a way channel surfing for real-life episodes, not really knowing what I wanted my eyes to sit on.
An old lady carrying an eco-bag and a folding umbrella was also there, walking after the students. She had a sullen and weary look in her eyes, the kind that had seen many cold Decembers I suppose.
I watched her pacing herself to reach the bench where I was. She placed her things down carefully and made sure that these were secured and will not fall over. She then slowly chose a spot, sitting next to me.
I was trying not to be obvious. I was looking straight down on to the book I was holding, and just observing her through my peripheral. I didn’t want to offend her, but I couldn’t stop noticing as well since we were the only ones there.
She looked at the direction from where the train was going to appear, but she only found the image of me sitting there across her.
“Hijo, what time is the next train?” the old lady asked, her gaze shifted towards me.
“Um, I guess in a few minutes, they operate less on weekends” Stammering, I responded.
“And why do you suppose they’d do that? People still have to be somewhere even on weekends, right?” then a faint chuckle followed.
Clearly, time complimented her with wisdom.
“I guess, you’re right” taken by surprise on her response, I returned with a polite nod and a smile.
“If I may ask, are you in a hurry, Ma’am?”
She reached for her bag and went through what was inside and held out a standard-sized marble that kids play with especially during far back in the day.
“I plan to visit my son and surprise him with this. He is much older than you are, probably a decade older.
I found this thing from a box filled with worn-out clothes and old books, and I thought this will make him remember.”
“Remember what?” I quickly followed.
“Well, when he was still a little boy, he never left this behind, everywhere he went he carried this in his pocket, believing it held some sort of magic. I guess he got that idea from reading too much Mark Twain novels.”
“To tell you honestly, this is not the actual marble that he believed had magical powers. Many years ago, I accidentally dropped the real one when I was checking his trousers for anything before washing them. I lost the damn thing when it went straight through a hole.”
“That must have felt very frustrating” I sincerely injected.
“Then what happened next?”
“I went to the house of my son’s best friend, whose mom I was very close with, and explained what happened with the marble.
As a mother, she understood why it was so important for me to find another similar.
We snuck inside her son’s room and went through a drawer where he kept his collection of marbles. But we were dumbfounded when we discovered that there was a lot to choose from.”
I gave out a huge laugh after hearing this and felt very much intrigued on how the story was turning out.
“How were you able to find an exact match?” Curiously asking.
“Well, we didn’t.”
“I don’t understand, what did you do after?” Now really intrigued.
“I got back to our house with three marbles I thought similar with the real one. It was getting late, so I just bought us dinner on the way home from a cheap Chinese restaurant near our place.
And when I arrived, he was sleeping, apparently tired from looking for his treasure.
I woke him up and took the time explaining to him what happened.
“And then? Did he get mad about it?”
“Yes, he hated me for it. And it took a few days to get him talking to me again.”
“But it surprised me when he finally did, he told me, that he had a dream about his magic marble”.
I leaned closer to hear her clearly. Her tone and the volume of her voice dropped a couple of notches it was almost a whimper.
“He said that in his dream, I came out of an Ice cave and gave him a marble.
And according to the dream, I placed the marble inside his invisible pocket, and told him that it will never, ever be lost again.”
“That turned out well?” with a gesture of relief I gave a deep exhale.
“Well it sort of did, but years went by, and he seemed to have also forgotten where that secret pocket was. That’s why I am visiting him to show him this old marble. It’s been years since the last time we saw each other. Call me overly dramatic, but I am running out of time.” Holding the round toy up next to her hopeful smile.
All of a sudden, the train loomed out of the huge body of a hazy fog across the green field, approaching the station.
We hurriedly bid our short but sincere farewells, never knowing if we will cross paths ever again for another storytelling.
Apparently, that was the last time I saw the old lady.
She got on the train as I stayed behind watching her go.
The heavy weight on my chest was starting to fade as the rubber soles of my shoes seemed to have grown wings on them suddenly.
Flying off to somewhere instead.