It was 10:36 on a Friday night, and Richie had spent his night at work, like usual.
He absentmindedly ran his hands through his black, unruly curls as he walked toward his backpack. He was still in his work uniform, a tattered blue jumpsuit which was about 3 inches too short at the ankles, and his dad’s old Timberlands. Pinned over his heart was a name tag that said “Richie T.” in scribbled, black sharpie writing.
Technically, his shift had ended at 10:00 p.m., but he wanted to stick around to help close shop. It’s not like he had anywhere else to be.
“See ya Mr. D!” Richie yelled over his shoulder as he headed outside through the back bay of the garage. Shutting the doors behind him and putting his earbuds in, he was off.
Every Friday night he walked the mile and a half to the train station after his shift, rather than waiting for the bus to pick him up. It felt refreshing to him, the cool and crisp autumn air. He bounced on the balls of his feet to the rhythm of his music as he walked down the concrete path. It was foggy outside, but more of a mist than anything dense. It made him feel free, alive.
The street lamps flickered as he passed them, as if they were capable of responding to their surroundings. The mist had turned into a light drizzle as the train station came into view. He went to check his watch as he realized that he couldn’t read it due to the newly rain covered lenses of his glasses. He balled up the end of his sleeve into his fist to wipe them off. But before he could check the time, he heard the call for the train and just decided to make a run for it.
He arrived just in time for the train and was running across the tracks to the middle section as the gates began to descend. He tried to catch his breath while he waited as the doors began to close behind him. He had boarded the third car to the right, and went to sit in the same seat. The same seat that he sits in every Friday night.
But tonight was different. There was another boy in this seat, already.
“Why are you staring at me?”
With this, Richie snapped out of whatever trance had been holding onto his thoughts and re-focused his eyes to actually look at the smaller boy in front of him. His eyes were large with curiosity, or was it irritation? Probably both, Richie thought to himself. This boy looked extremely disheveled but more organized than Richie had ever been in his life, simultaneously. His hair was all over the place and his face was as red as a strawberry, yet his polo was buttoned to the top and the stack of paper he held in his lap were neatly color coded and pressed.
Richie took out an earbud to respond,
“Actually, I wasn’t staring at you, but now that I’ve taken a better look at you, I kinda wish I had been.” and sat down in the aisle across from the boy with a bewildered look on his face.
It was 10:10 p.m. as Eddie began to pack his bag and Mr. Lyroe finally finished his lecture on the importance of perspective. Almost two and a half hours of him monotonically talking about absolutely nothing. Nothing that Eddie bothered to listen to, that is.
Class was supposed to be over at 9:45 and he knew that there was no rational possibility of him making the bus that was a mile away in five minutes, but there was no other option, so he planned to do the near impossible.
He took everything he had learned from high school track and put it to use for what he hoped would be the last time he would ever need to in his entire life. And with that, he ran. It felt so much better than he had expected it to. After he had finally stood up to his mother and refused his inhaler, along with the plethora of placebos he was on, his life became a million times better. He had finally freed himself, and God knows he took that to his advantage. He had joined track and field, which was the one thing he was never allowed to do. He ended up having a natural talent for the sport and came in first place for the mile every year at state.
While running towards the bus, his hair had fallen over his eyes and his nose began to run, but it wasn’t bothering him. His cheeks were flushed and his face cold from the brisk October air. He had done it, he got on the 10:15.
The bus pulled into the cul de sac of the train station and let off all the passengers, being as it was its last stop. As Eddie stepped down the last stair of the bus, he walked over to the bench in the middle section of the station. It was 10:50, so he had 10 minutes until the train arrived. As he waited, it began to lightly rain around him, although he was nice and dry under the roof attached to the bench.
He doodled little birds all over the back page in his sketchbook. He dedicated this page to all the birds that his best friend would tell him about when they came across one of them. Yesterday’s was a pileated woodpecker, so it acted as today’s sketch.
The train pulled up and halted to a stop. He got on the car that ended up in front of him and took the first seat he saw. As Eddie looked up, he saw a much taller boy that seemed to be running for his life directly towards him.
This unknown boy did a b-line for the train car and jumped on seconds before the doors closed behind him. He looked around for a second and then just stared at Eddie, with a glossed over look in his eyes, under the coke bottle lenses. His chest was heaving rapidly.
After looking at him for what felt like minutes, Eddie finally mustered out, “Why are you staring at me?”
Whatever the lanky boy had been so enamored by quickly went away with a swift shake of his head. He took out his earbuds and looked Eddie up and down for a second before responding with, “Actually, I wasn’t staring at you, but now that I’ve taken a better look at you, I kinda wish I had been.” and sat is the seat across the aisle from him.
What the fuck was that supposed to mean?