by 伊凌 yi ling
Writing prompt from Writespace Houston training:
Use the words “Diamond, Blade, Lavender” or “Can you hear them?”
She smiled a lot as a baby but grimaced more as life wore on. If honesty and suffering still counted as virtues, then she was easily the most virtuous 73.4 year old person on the train.
Granny Virtue surveyed her cohorts. Night darkened and yellow-brown lights illuminated the center aisle. White glowing, radiation from phones possessed her slack-eyed companions.
She grimaced. These things made everyone pasty and no one available to each other. This used to be her favorite time on train rides, when she’d sit back and eavesdrop on the quiet hum and chatter as people slipped closer towards dreamtime. Instead she found these phones cutting like blades into those tender and rare moments.
She could hear passengers she rode with so many years ago. Once, on a long ride she sat two seats in front of a young man who kept tapping something dully against the window. Tapping, thudding, tapping, thudding. The lavender fields of Southern France streamed by like a movie montage to the metronome of this tapping and thudding.
She spent that time wondering what agitation drove the tempo of tapping, thudding, tapping, thudding. And she willed herself to listen for the answer, to trust the sway of the train to arrive at the answer or more questions. After all, this young man was either running from or towards something.
She kept quiet, inhaled deeply and listened to the journey they were on together.
The train coughed, lurched and shook the passengers awake. One second later, dreams gave way to the din of people exclaiming and gathering their items. Two seconds later, she heard the tapping and thudding, the heartbeat of this journey. Her travel mate’s tempo accelerated and then stopped. She laid eyes on him as he walked by her. She remained sitting. His mouth was set with determination and he limped a little less as he got to the front of the train car. Perhaps his leg woke up.
Just as he stepped off the car, sadness and well wishes collided in her.
She sat watching as he stepped off the platform and gazed. A burst of movement. A woman leapt into his arms. He spun her around then placed her carefully down. He dropped to his knees and opened up a box. The diamond sparkled in the morning sun.
She could still hear their muffled laughter and the clapping train-goers 30 years later. And now she wondered if her cohorts, sitting with their phones, could hear those quiet heartbeats, wishes, fears pulsing through fellow travellers on the train.
“Can you hear them?”