He woke up standing on the street corner across from the library. Small children rambled up and down the stairs, some sliding down the 100 year old bronze hand rail that separated the steps into two distinct sections: left and right, north and south, up and down, right and wrong. Teachers stood side by side, arms folded, on the landing near the wooden doors, unaffected by the sounds of chaos and happiness that careened up towards them and off the heavy stone walls. Unless someone was bleeding, everything was fine.
A couple wandered through the throng, dodging the unpredictable movements of boys and girls who were oblivious to anyone around them over the age of 12. The older man wore a smile,while his much younger partner let out machine gun laughs as he sidestepped one boy, only to collide with a girl darting in from the other side.
It was like waking from one dream, and finding yourself in another. His head hurt and something that resembled dried blood covered the knuckles on his right hand. Watching the scene unfold, he stood still on the sidewalk, unsure of how he found himself here. His last memory-putting Marsha to bed while Catherine put the dishes away. Some people called her Cathy, which bothered him. Her nickname was Nashville. She never went by Cathy, ever.
But that wasn’t really his last memory. Something else came into his mind as a school bus pulled up in front of the library and the teachers ushered their charges into orderly, but noisy lines, that one by one disappeared into the yellow and green of the bus. It was something Nashville said to him as he left Marsha’s room and turned back into the kitchen.
“I always wanted to ride the subway, alone, late at night, the sounds of the train on the track the only thing in my ears, and the dimming and brightening of the overhead lights making my vision unreliable. I imagine you there, in an adjacent car. You’re sitting against the left side, head back on the dirty glass, an etching of something vulgar directly over your head. I am unable to see you clearly through the partition separating the cars, but I can determine a few things-your hair is mostly brown, with flecks of gray, and your nose is slightly crooked. Your hands are soft and welcoming. The blue coat you are wearing is exactly like the one I have on. Somehow, I know you, you know me. As that realization comes to me, you stand and turn towards the doors that divide the two cars. I hear the click as you pull the handle and slide the first door open. For one moment, you are between spaces, disconnected and dissolved. The speed of the train car makes you wobble slightly and I worry you may fall. You regain balance, tangibility, and open the second door. The wind rushes in, a heavy smell, like history, blows in with you. Your eyes are bright blue and your leather bottomed shoes are scuffed and old. You step towards me. My heart races.”