Footsteps from Yesterday


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Morning light floods the train station. A man sits on a bench, slumped over, with his dull gray eyes fixed on the floor. Under his motionless gaze, the shoes of the shifting crowd bustle in and out of his vision. They all look the same to him. Just as they always have for the past ten years. Leather shoes of stately businessmen. High heels elevating women weighed down by their purchases. Tiny sneakers attached to scampering children. They are all the shoes of strangers. Whether they are brown, ruby, suede, laced, or rubber soled makes no difference. All their owners are unrecognizable. Indistinguishable. Distant…oh so ever distant.


Take that pair of shoes, for example, he thinks. The ones pacing steadily toward him on light feet. It doesn’t matter that they are sandals. That they are colored a pristine white. That they have a familiar look to them… There is no doubt that they belong to just another merry lady returning from Miss Marla’s boutique downtown – who will go home to her oh so lovely darling and fall into his oh so lovely arms, who will fall asleep at night with the warmth of companionship by his side. It makes no difference that they have small rose buds bordering the straps. That they glow softly in the light, mimicking the glow of a pair he once knew – one that had twirled around his worn out dress shoes in the old church on Florette Road that lazy Sunday morning…


He shakes the image out of his head. That is just a memory and he has no use for memories anymore.  The sandals are closer now. A set of toes peek out from each shoe, and their rosy pink nails seem to send sweet kisses out to him. He rubs his temples, as if this would dispel the notion. What a foolish notion. What a foolish foolish notion, he thinks. What has gotten into him? All these years and days waiting in the train station must be wearing out his sanity. But inside him, a voice struggles against his own dismissal. Those polished nails really do seem to send sweet kisses. They really do cause a certain warmth to rise in his chest. And they really do cause a certain memory of rosy nails – atop silly toes, nuzzled against the soft bank grass by Solace Creek – to linger at the edge of his consciousness. They really do bring him on the verge of an actual smile. No, that isn’t possible. Not at all. This man does not smile. At least not anymore. And nothing can bring him any happiness. Especially not those generic shoes with those generic feet with their generic dusting of freckles and that generic birthmark right below the right ankle – the man’s heart skips a beat.


It can’t be.


The sandals stop in front of him. The rosy toes scrunch inward. The freckled feet shift from side to side. The birthmark bores into his vision.


No. Don’t look up.


It’s just another stranger. Don’t get your hopes up. Not now…not after all these years.


But it is too late. Those eyes that haven’t wavered from their downward gaze for a decade begin to rise. They move past the sandals, the freckles, the birthmark and slowly sweep upward over delicate legs, shaped with gentle curves. They reach the slope of the knees where silk petals of pale pink and cream fall. His shadowy eyes widen. His heart deviates from its methodical thump, hopping and skidding out of rhythm. He is reminded of those camellias that a certain someone used to gather, their colors inspiring him to buy creamy rolls of fabric for the gatherer. His heart rebels from within.


The bloom continues gracefully up, enveloping hips caught in a slight sway, and ending at a waist where all the milky petals join and embrace each other. So much like…so much like the waist he had supported and lifted into the air long ago, freeing that lovely laughing soul into the wind and sky. That beautiful soul. Free like the doves they used to watch together on their favorite bench in Mirthwood Park. Oh God, what is happening. Make it stop. Please, before this rising hope reaches the sky and plummets tragically to the ground.


He can’t stop the ascension. The silk resumes its journey, coasting over the rise of a chest and wrapping over lovely sun powdered shoulders. He is on the verge of tears. He has given up on resisting. It is her. It can only be her. Please be her. Those shoulders are the ones he had laid his arm over as the two of them swayed in his hammock, the ones he had covered with his coat when the autumn chill swept through the town, the ones he had rested his head on before she stepped onto the train that whisked her out of his life. The ones he has longed to embrace all these years.
At last he comes to a beautiful gentle smile, that beautiful gentle smile – The man’s breath is taken away. Then, those dancing eyes, like pools of glistening caramel – his heart swells up. From within his abeyant being, he draws air from his lungs, stirring up the dust of a decade, and blowing it all out with one quivering utterance: “My love.”