station is isolated from the rest of downtown
, a barren island
amid the sea
of towering structures. It is a train station
only; in every other aspect, it is a shed
. The exterior of the building is flimsy and weak
; the paper-thin paneling only accentuates its frailty. One huge storm and the entire place could collapse
For an hour or so, the three of us leaned against the unsteady paneling. We blended in with the solemn travelers, the cold, vacant chairs, and the world-weary suitcases, perfectly matching the desolate ambiance of the station. The taller girl, brushing luxurious red hair out of her eyes while she nervously applies her lipgloss; the introspective dark-haired boy, continually checking his watch and re-adjusting his glasses; the smaller girl, hugging her knees to her chest, punctuating every other breath with a sigh. Each of us were anxious about the uncertain aftermath of the past seventy-two hours. In my own way, I was nervous about the end. How was I going to change after Jordan left? How was he going to change?
The conductor announced that it was time to board; we walked silently towards the train, together yet separate. Jordan shifted her backpack to one shoulder and held me at arm's length, as though she were a proud mother wanting to retain a clear glimpse of her departing child. I had quickly become accustomed to this kind of behavior; Jordan possessed maturity and composure that betrayed her age of eighteen years.
"I'm so grateful to have met you this week. I love you so much. You have to promise to keep in touch with me, okay?" I blushed at my new friend's appreciative comments; I had to divert my tearful eyes from her gaze. Jordan then turned towards our despondent companion "You're a very special boy, and I love you, too. You'll stay in touch with me, right?" He said something in response but I didn't catch it; I had already begun walking towards the station office. I didn't want to steal the moment away from them.
I felt guilty for the relief that washed over me as Jordan disappeared up the steps of the train; this period of mass transit and emotional transition had come to an end. As he made his way through the unwelcoming steel doors, I was afraid to look at him; I didn't make eye contact until I saw his tall, thin shadow standing next to mine. With a grave nod on his part, we shuffled across the deserted parking lot towards my car.
"What do you want to listen to?" I asked as I hastily climbed into the driver's seat.
"I don't care," he mumbled. Suddenly his shoes had become the most fascinating thing.
We departed from the unfriendly confines of the Amtrak station, my thoughts amplified within the silent car. Over the course of three days, Jordan had managed to send my world into a total state of flux, impacting my life in a more startling manner than I thought possible. From the start, our conversations made a special kind of sense; we held a mutual understanding of one another that I failed to have with most people I had known for years. I was very grateful to have met her, and to have had the chance to form such a strong bond with her in such a short period of time.
Though I was thankful for meeting Jordan, I was worried about how she had affected my passenger. She had brought about some astonishing changes within him, revealing a deeply vulnerable boy. Some of the changes were nearly imperceptible - the softness that had arisen in his features, the lack of usual defensiveness in his mannerisms. Other changes were more obvious - in all the time that we had been friends, I had never seen him to be so open, so emotional. He had cast aside his emotional barriers and allowed himself to become fully exposed to the complex cycle of human emotion. The pure honesty within that vulnerability was so bright, it almost made my heart stop.
What now? That question ran on an infinite loop in my mind as we traveled west on the highway, towards home. Out the corner of my eye, I watched him as he carefully studied the passing cars. I wanted to know so badly what he was thinking; there was a wistfulness in those little boy eyes that made me want to protect him from every terrible feeling that had ever existed. In that moment, I wished more than anything that I could take his hurt away, but I didn't know how to express the protective concern that I felt. I kept my empathy to myself as we continued down Highway 40 in the thick silence.
Rain began to pour, and I thought about the train station, weak and exposed in the middle of the city. One huge storm and the entire place could collapse.