When Time Calls
IT ALL STARTED THURSDAY AFTERNOON...
“Four Dollars and 83 Cents! FUCK!”
I’m broke. I’m walking alone in the blazing heat alongside the road trying to figure out what to do. Solitude matched with silence. I kept walking, and continued walking. My feet grazed by the jagged stones running beneath them, air from the passing river brushing my face. I’ve walked way too far. I looked up and there was a strip of local stores, all boarded up, except the one on the corner. No decoration, just one window, one door, and one sign. The sign read:
“HELP! HELP! WE NEED SOME HELP!”
I glance around. Not one sign of human existence, but I decide to walk in. There was an older man sitting at a desk with his back facing the door. It was a small space. The walls were clear of art work, the floor was free of furniture and there was a small circular table with two chairs and two cups with a half empty bottle of whiskey. I was having trouble figuring out what was it he needed help for.
“Excuse me sir. I was wa-“ I said.
He raised his hand up signaling silence. He was a well-dressed man. Wearing a rugged jean jacket with funky green pants. A fume of smoke bloomed from his cigar he had resting in between his fingers.
“What is it, how can I help you?” he asked.
“I can speak now?” I responded.
“Don’t be a smartass.”
I chuckle. “I was walking by, matter of fact, where the hell am I?”
“Drawbridge kid. Now what is it you want?”
“I saw your sign.” Pointing outside. I looked around, “You need help? What type of help you looking for?”
He inches up in his chair and takes a puff of his cigar.
“Listen, I know we’ve just met. But I’m looking at you and I can sense there’s something wrong. There’s something wrong isn’t it?” he asked.
“No. No, not really.” I said.
“Bullshit! It’s written all over your face… I’ll give you another chance, because I know you’re messed up.”
“Ok, I’m sorry sir. But, another chance for what?”
“Shit kid, what’s the matter with YA?” he asked.
“Things are just tough alright. Shit happens. I’m offering my help, what is it that I would do?” I asked.
“Whatever I tell you to do.”
“Which is what?”
“Come here.” He walks over to a cabinet full of papers. Hands me one and points towards the bottom telling me to sign. With no hesitation, I sign it. He reaches under his desk and he hands me an envelope. “Here kid, take it.” He said.
I fiddle my fingers to open it and he quickly grabs my hand. “Hold on now! Don’t go doing something you haven’t even thought about. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I just gave you something and you’re already rushing to see what’s inside.” He said.
“Huh?” I asked.
“Look kid, I know you’re a little odd and on the downside but sleep on it. I like to help people like you. But when I give you something, listen. Life was not always good, I too had my run ins. Now I’m here. So whatever you choose to do. Good luck to you.”
“Now I got work to do. Get on, and don’t be late.”
Before heading out the door..
“Wait, late for what?” I asked.
The old man disappeared. I thought about it enough and being stranded in ghost town made my decision quite easier. I open the envelope to a train ticket for departure at 7:00 AM tomorrows time.
I arrive to the station at the time instructed. By no surprise I’m the only one there. I walk over to the vending machine and file its choices. The train arrives.
I got on. Incredible interior, finished hardwood, rooms with doors, cafes, it was the future encapsulated in an old steam train. I took the seat in the back of the car by a large window. The collector came around to collect my ticket. A ticket that had no destination. I doze off moments later.
My dreams are filled with chaos. Summarizing my antagonizing mind during this present time. Loud thunderous crunches rupture my eardrums stirring up a whirl wind. The noises are becoming sharper. I’m becoming more conscious. Soon to realize this is no longer a dream. I slowly open my eyes to an older woman sitting across from me in the opposite chair, crunching on her apple. She pauses mid bite and glances at me. I stare back at her.
“Sorry, did I wake you?” she asked.
“No, you’re fine… How long have you been sitting there?” I responded.
“Uhhh for about 2 hours.”
“2 HOURS! Jesus where are they taking us?”
“You don’t know where you’re going?”
“No my ticket didn’t say. I got this ticket from this man, it was a help wanted sign and... Never-mind.”
She notices my frustration. She eases back into her seat and gazes out window. We’re riding alongside an open field. She begins to fiddle with her feet, twitching them back and forth.
“Do you think there’s a way to open this window?” she asked.
I pause. “I believe we can’t, no.”
She sits back into her chair. “Have you ever been to Sunset District?” she asked.
“In San Fran? Yeah, once.”
“Beautiful place isn’t it? Right by the ocean. I’m going there for work.”
We recline into our seats. Utter silence. The train stopped. I peek out the window, nothing but land. How could this be a station? The ticket collector walks by our door and I immediately get up to grab his attention.
“Yes, is everything ok?” he asked.
“Listen, my ticket didn’t say where it was going. Where’s this train go?”
“My TICKET DIDN’T have a destination. Where are we GOING?”
“Hey look here, that’s not my problem. I’m going to need you to go back to your seat and calm down. This travels the edge of the Pacific, you’re probably the last stop.”
“Alameda.” He says.
“Alameda? Where the FUCK is that?”
I head to the bathroom to wash my face off and catch my breath. Once I get back to my seat, the woman is drinking milk and has cookies. She offers me one.
“I overheard your convo with the ticket collector. Are you okay? Your ticket didn’t say where you’re going, how’d that happen?” she asked.
“I’m not sure.” I said.
“Strange. You’re not much of a talker are you?” I look at her. “I guess not… Well, my offer still stands. If you want some cookies, be my guest.”
“Thank you but no thank you.”
I sense her skepticism. She sat there quiet. Thinking. Wandering. Her mind slowly drifting away. She felt uncomfortable. She was unsure of what to do or what to say. She knew that something wasn’t right and so did I. We both sit in confusion. She looked out the window, up into the sky and sighed. Birds flew in sync above the train. She wanted to let them in. But the window was closed. She stared in amazement. It brought back her spunk. She looked over to me. I quickly shut my eyes.
“I saw that.” She said.
I peek one eye open. “Saw what, what’s out there?”
“Are you a Portlander?” she asked.
“A Portlander? Haha no, I’m from Oakland.” I said.
“Do you have kids?” she asks.
“One son. But he’s in jail. So is his father… Yup, they’re in there for good.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s fine. So what’s your story?” she asks.
“Yeah, your story.”
“I don’t, I don’t really have one.”
“Sure you do, we all do.”
“I guess I don’t know where to start.”
“How’d you’d end up here? Do you believe in fate?”
“Huh, NO. I’m not into that type of stuff. You shouldn’t be either. It’s a bunch of shit.”
“Yeah, Shit. Who even discovered fate?”
“Cool down, why are you so angry?”
“Listen, I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t know you and you don’t know me. And I’m not angry. You sat next to me, you asked these questions. I’m moving seats, enjoy the view.”
“WOW. No, I don’t want you hurting anyone else. I’ll leave.”
And just like that. I did it again. The side I thought I abandoned resurrected. Past decisions left a stagnate sour residue on my soul daunting everyone around me, including myself. I get up and look for her. I find her by the bar in the café.
“Hey, I’m sorry.” I said.
“What just happened back there?” she asked.
“Life.” I responded.
“What seems to be troubling you? Come, have a seat... Drink?” she asked.
She orders a margarita from the bar.
“Yeah.” I said.
We take a few sips of our drink.
“I’m going to be honest... Lately time has lost its meaning. Everything has lost its substance. I’m poisoned by the decisions I’ve made. Everyday. You don’t have to sit here and hear my troubles. It may be contagious.” I said.
“No, carry on. We’ve all had our problems. Always will.” She said.
She orders another drink from the bar. They weren't too strong.
“Want to know the funny thing, I just got promoted as a Senior Manager at my company with a quarter million dollar raise. No man in his rightful mind would be mad about that. Yet, I can’t even get up in the morning.” I said.
“Wow…” she responded.
“I shouldn’t have stayed. I should’ve just left with her.” I said.
“With who?” she asked.
“Corrine” I responded.
“Who’s Corrine?” she asked.
“She was incredible.” I said.
“I get that, but who was she?”
“She worked at Bread & Butters. A spot I would go to for happy hour. She was the waitress. Had huge dreams, aspirations of starting her own record company. She influenced me to dig deeper and reach for my true being. But the last time I saw her was a few days before she headed out East.”
“I don’t understand. What’s the problem?”
“I had a fiancé.”
“Ohhhh. I see.”
“But it was blissful when I was with her. I felt… understood ya know? I knew who I was. But Michelle, Michelle’s my fiancé. She’s great ya know. But she didn’t reach me like Corrine. The first few months were absolutely incredible but went to shit from there. Once Corrine got into the picture it was no turning back. But I love Michelle... but she isn’t it. Please, don’t judge me for my infidelity. Hear me out.”
“You said it earlier, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. But I’ll tell you this story. There once was this girl, talented, smart, and ambitious, good at what she did. The world rested in her palm. Everyone saw the good life she lived but no one got the chance to understand her. That’s when things hit rock bottom. She too then realized she didn’t understand herself, she just knew that her looks would get her in the door. She didn’t even enjoy half the shit she did. Life caught up to her. She landed in a cave far too deep to continue the life she lived. Time had hit a standstill. It seemed that way at least. Suddenly nothing at all seemed to matter. She was racing against time, it was the only thing she had left. And she couldn’t hold on much longer, it was time to let go. She had to go find herself.”
“What happened to her?” I asked.
“I’m the girl.” She responded.
I finish the rest of my drink.
“Look, there are things that we don’t want to happen, and we never know when it will, but we accept it. Things we don’t want to know but have to learn. And things we don’t want to leave but have to let go.” She said.
“So just like that, you pack it all up and leave. You’re not afraid of leaving it all behind? Starting a whole new life again, that doesn’t scare you? It scares me.”
“Yeah it was tough, I can’t deny that. Was it scary? Of course! But I had to do it, I had to leave. I have to see what’s out in the world. Because if I didn’t leave I wouldn’t know what’s out there. And I couldn't live like that. I had to go, I had to know.”
“I guess you’re right.”
*SUNSET! Yelled the conductor.
“I can tell it’s hard, it’s hard to carry such darkness and find a way to illuminate and align all the stars, but this is my stop. It was a nice talk. You know what to do. Good luck.” She said.
I sat back in my seat, reflecting, anxious, and confused. I didn’t know what to think of it all, but I knew for certain things were not going to be the same. The 7 hour trip was coming to an end. We’ve arrived at the last stop. I got off. I walk to the nearest map and there I was, in Alameda, a few miles away from Fruitvale where I stay. I’m back where it all started. I look around, look up into the sky as the light hits my face searching for answers. At that moment I realized it was time to stop looking for light and become it instead.