The doors closed. The train left the station. Her eyes followed the trail of steam making its way across the horizon.
“It’s horrible, really.”
He paused again. She watched him in silence.
“It takes people from one place to another.”
“That’s what trains do.”
“But why? What’s better about that other place?”
She watched the train again. The wind carried the steam away from the tracks.
“Until they’ve been there for a while. And then it’s the same. They can always go somewhere new, but it’s really all the same. It’s not different. It’s not better.”
He glanced at the front of the station, then back at her.
“There are different people there. Different things.”
“There used to be. But now the people move around, and they take the things with them.”
“They still leave some things behind—”
“Only because they have to—”
“Some of them want to. That’s why they’re leaving—”
“They can’t change themselves by changing what’s around them. They can’t run away.”
He looked around. The station was almost empty.
“What’s stopping them?”
She looked into his eyes and sighed softly.
She watched him as he turned his head and stared into the distance. Another train was approaching the station.
She followed his gaze. “Trains are so pretty,” she said. “I hate them.”
“It’s not their fault, though. It’s the people. They built the trains. They use them. If they didn’t have trains, they’d just find another way to run away.”
“Sometimes I want to run away.”
She was silent for a while. The train loomed in the distance.
“But there’s nowhere to run.”
“Why not? Run anywhere. Run someplace different.”
“There aren’t any different places. They might look or smell or feel or taste different, but they all have the same problems—the same rules—and even if you find a place that’s really different, like nothing you’ve ever seen before, just by being there you pull it closer every second to exactly what you are trying to avoid.”
“What are you trying to avoid?”
She looked down.
“I don’t know.”
He watched the wisps of steam curl off the train and hang in the sky.
She spoke again. “I don’t like who I am—no, that’s not it, because it’s not that I want to change. I want not to have to change. I want not to have to be.”
“I like being.”
“So do I, sometimes. But that’s not enough. Every second of every day you have to know that you want to be there. Otherwise there’s no point in being there at all.”
The sound of the train drew intangibly closer.
“No, you don’t,” he said finally. He watched the wind snatch at tendrils of her hair.
“You have to want to be there for a single second.”
“Doesn’t that make it worthwhile? If there’s a single second—”
“What happens after that second?”
“There’s always another one.”
“You don’t know that. You can’t.”
She shifted closer to the tracks. He followed.
The train drew closer.
“Maybe I don’t have to. There’s always a possibility.”
“Why should I live my life for a possibility?” She leaned forward and let her toes hover over the ballast below.
The train approached the station. He watched her stare out into the endless, empty landscape.
He stepped forward. She slipped her fingers between his. They stared into the distance together.
The noise of the train grew louder.
She closed her eyes and, after a moment, he closed his too.
The train was almost at the station now.
She breathed deeply and calmly and leaned forward a little more.
The train rushed by, whipping their clothes around them, pressing the air back against them. It slowed as it neared the end of the station. It stopped.
The doors opened. She let go of his hand and walked onto the train.