It was a beautiful spring morning when she sat down on a park bench beside a young girl of thirteen. The girl looked up briefly to catch a glimpse of the woman sitting beside her on the waiting room bench.
‘Beautiful morning, isn’t it?’ the lady bent down to pick a cherry blossom petal. She had always liked picking up diseased stray leaves and torn flowers.
‘It’s okay, I guess,’ the girl replied; she wrapped her arms around herself tightly to escape the harsh draught blowing inside the concrete room with the concrete benches and concrete floors.
‘I am waiting for someone, you?’ the lady asked gently, still twirling the petal.
‘For the train,’ the girl answered briskly and looked at the end of the tunnel to check for the light of the oncoming train.
The lady was caught by surprise for a moment until the spring morning, a wooden park bench and cherry blossoms vanished around her. The dark waiting room, the dirty train tracks, and the tunnel appeared. She looked at the girl again and then impatiently checked her watch. She would be so late. The girl kept staring at the train tracks and sharply turned her head at times to check for the light at the end of the tunnel. The lady realized that she had clung so hard to the petal that it was surprising that it had not vanished into thin air like the rest of the spring morning.
She held the crumpled petal close to the girl’s eyes and spoke as clearly and firmly as she could, ‘Look at me. Look at this. There is no train. It’s never going to come. Wake up. If you don’t now, then you never will. Give yourself one chance to be happy, and you deserve it. Look at me. Look at yourself.’
The girl’s unfocussed gaze slowly found the petal. It found the spring morning with the wooden park bench and cherry blossoms. She looked at the watch and then looked up, not at the train track, but the most beautiful woman she had ever seen in her life.
‘You showed up! I wasn’t sure you would,’ the woman exclaimed happily and sat down beside her.
‘I almost didn’t. But I met a young girl with an ocean romance, and she called it the way of life.’
(This short story has been inspired by a particular stanza of Zee Avi’s thought-provoking song ‘Swell Window.’)