Although I told myself I wouldn’t, I walk to the train station, a stone building covered by a rusty dome, where I will wait for her. We met on a sidewalk in Paris. Our eyes met and we drifted into each other. In the dark, we kissed on every bridge over the Seine. She said she’d meet me here in Frankfurt. I’ve waited for three days to see the spread of freckles across her face, to hear her voice, but she’s nowhere in the plumes of people flowing through the train doors every seven minutes.
The concrete bench near the station’s entrance is smeared with cigarette ash. No travel guide mentioned how much Germans smoke. In front of every building, crowded in every park, near every fountain, stand wads of people taking down cigarettes like wood chippers. I smoke as a way to pass the time while I wait for the train to deliver her, and have discovered how opening a new pack feels like hitting a reset button.
In the center of the station’s foyer, I see every passing face. So many hair types, skin tones, teeth arrangements, eye colors. None are hers. I regret not giving her my hotel address, or getting her email. Mistakenly, I thought our connection was something magnetic that transcended typical communication lines.
A loose string of guys stand against the wall, looking longingly at the empty tracks, the last train having pulled away with a whoosh. I wonder which of them, like me, is a dumb tourist who would have bet his life savings that the girl with the pixie cut and flower dress was going to rearrange her travel plans to fall in love for a week, maybe longer.
There’s time to wander outside the station before the next train arrives. I ignore the shining skyscrapers, moving quickly down the sidewalk.
Across the street, standing on the fringe of a crowd surrounding a juggler, I see her!
She’s wearing blue jeans and a black sweater. The same passionate charge we felt under the street lights in Paris strikes me. Rushing to her, I dodge two cars and a cyclist. I shout her name, but am drowned out by the laughing crowd. Closer now, only three, two, one step away. I lightly grip her shoulder. She turns.
When I realize it’s not her I feel like a star that has finally been extinguished. The face of the unfamiliar young girl is startled. I stutter my apologies and retreat. This feeling of abandonment is, I imagine, similar to drowning. You reach out, but there’s nothing to grab onto before you strike the bottom. I wallow on the bottom for many moments.
The signal of the arriving train chimes. A light ignites inside me. Just one more time, I tell myself. I sigh and walk into the station. When the train pulls in, I press a cigarette, in all its fragility and flammability, between my lips and make a wish.
About the Author: Scott Daughtridge lives in Atlanta where he runs Lostintheletters, a literary organization. His work has recently appeared in CHEAP POP, Midwestern Gothic, Necessary Fiction, Storychord and other places. Lame House Press released his chapbook, I Hope Something Good Happens, in 2014. You can find him online at www.notmuchisreallysacred.com.
Story Song: "Red Ink" by Deerhunter