“Rachel.” Her face wanted to scowl in response to Isaac’s tone transforming her name into a reprimand. She met his narrowed eyes with boldness masked in acquiescence, as only a 15-year-old could. Defiant in her lack of defiance, scrubbed of all sauce, she acknowledged her father’s reproach. She gave no indication that she had been caught looking with interest at the black boy with the low-slung jeans pacing the waiting room, talking on his phone. She was a good Amish daughter, her starched white cap perched precisely upon her neatly tucked bun. She pressed her lips together, blank eyes, silent. Satisfied, Isaac turned his attention back to the children flocked about his knees, his own and his brother’s, seven of them under the age of seven, restless with waiting for the train in the Utica Train Station. Rachel slumped against the pile of canvas sacks her family used as luggage, feigning sleepiness to fend off boredom.
Shawn circled the waiting room, his lanky frame garbed in the uniform of his generation, his mop of long natural curls bouncing as he paced. The drawstring nylon backpack on his back sagged. His belted jeans, perched precariously upon his slender backside, sagged in tandem. Though neatly trimmed, his mustache was thin – the facial hair of a youngster, not yet in his twenties. His wireless headphones were invisible to the older couple observing him as he navigated the benches and columns.
He stopped, his long thin back leaning against a thick marble column, talking into the air. He spoke too loudly for the public space, emphatic, animated, perhaps even pleading at one point. The pretty Amish girl tried to catch his eye but he was knee deep in his conversation, focused and distracted at the same time.
At the front of the room a small table functioned as a desk for the transit cop posted there. He sat, large and uncomfortable, in an office chair and watched the older couple traverse the room, necks craned, arms around each other’s waists. Tourists on a date, he thought. He watched them kiss. He shifted in his chair and his mind wandered to thoughts of his wife, and if she would want to when he got home.
The couple took in the vaulted ceiling and thick marble columns. The woman’s gray hair was long, loose, and unruly, blowing in nonexistent breezes, requiring restraint she did not provide. She noted the benches – the curve of the wood as it rounded the aisle ends. Better than Grand Central’s waiting room benches, she thought. Maybe art deco? She told herself she’d google it later, that it would be a thing she could message him about, a way to keep the date going after it ends.
They passed through the waiting room, into a glassed-in walkway leading to the tracks. They could just make out more benches outside in the twilight. An outdoor waiting room of sorts, benches and plantings… it looked like a park. “The benches,” he murmured appreciatively. “Yes,” she agreed. They were lovely.
He slipped an arm around her waist, his hand inside her overalls. Her jacket was long, shielding the intimacy of the gesture. His palm and fingers taking in the downy hair on the small of her back. Fingertips strayed to the top of her buttocks. A transgression worthy of adolescence. Her smile acknowledged, yes, I want to.
Rachel assessed the woman walking with her arm around the old man’s waist. Old enough to be a grandmother, yet something about both her and the man she was with defied age. Rachel stared openly. The woman caught her eye and smiled. Rachel returned the gaze without warmth. The man and woman were walking slowly and close together, their hips touching. Rachel felt like the woman was touching her. She was just looking, but still. It felt childlike and fresh.
“Come Rachel, it’s time to go. Stop staring at the English. Get your things.” Isaac spoke in Pennsylvania Dutch to Rachel, then began instructing the gaggle of children, roused and now gathering their belongings.
Shawn hung up, pulled his pants up to the crest of his hips, removed his ear buds and buried them in a front pocket, retrieving his phone. He hid his excitement, his face a mask of cool indifference. He headed for the tracks, anticipating the reunion with his lover later that night. He rehearsed greeting her in his head: what he would say, and where he would touch her first.
The cop hoisted himself to his feet. He watched the Amish families gather, adults herding children towards the track. He greeted Shawn by name, this journey a weekly occurrence. He noted the older couple, now paused by the exit, making out. Necking. The cop grinned at how he hadn’t thought of those terms since high school.
And the older couple stopped kissing long enough to watch the room empty, standing next to the heavy brass-trimmed glass doors, before they, too, left the waiting room.
Heather Rolland, based in upstate New York, writes flash fiction, short stories, and essays. Her work is published by Agnes and True, Pinky Thinker Press, Red Noise Collective, Sky Island Journal, and Drunk Monkeys (pending). The Thread, published by Sky Island Journal, was nominated for Best of the Web anthology.