Light in Evening: Diane
This short story is the first post in a new fiction series called “Person to Person.” Read more about this series here.
The train station was located on the precipice of an open field. The field was not an ordinary field (at least to Diane, it was not). It was an ocean, teeming with colour and light, and probably life, somewhere deep, deep below the snow. For Diane, many things depended upon light and colour. The white sheet of field was animated by prisms of sun on its surface and icy glistening patches. As the sun began to slip irrevocably towards night, the colours became more dramatic: very like the pastel shades of pink and red that were somewhere buried deep in her suitcase. Yet it was unfortunate that this was the way it always went: the colours were most vibrant before they disappeared.
And the sun set so early in the winter. Diane had never been over-fond of darkness, which she saw as an end, or at least as a temporary absence. On that particular day, the approaching presence of dark (which she knew to be coming, though her eyes, drowning in the visual splendour of sunset, could not attest to the fact) was especially foreboding. For, once the landscape was lost to the sun, it would be lost to her as well. The train would have long since departed by the time the cycle of light started again.
Diane stood on the edge of this field, before those slush-ridden tracks, and contemplated absence. In her experience, there was always an end and a series of ends was necessarily disjointed. Between the ends that lingered in her memory, there were no connections. There were only dangling threads, fragments of unfinished happiness, unresolved sadness, uncertainty.
An announcement echoed over the speakers and Diane clutched the handle of her suitcase, though with the numbness in her fingers, it might have been a hand other than her own. People came rushing from the inside of the station, pushing through the throng so that any motion in the empty field was far overshadowed. As Diane waited, she heard breathing close by, and the next moment a woman strode in front of her hurriedly. The corner of the woman’s bag made contact with Diane’s cheek, which was stiff with cold. Yet the woman moved on. She did not hear (or ignored) Diane’s sharp intake of breath upon the impact. No words of an apologetic nature tumbled out of her mouth. She did not look back, even once. Diane was left in her shadow, waiting behind her in line.
Something about this brief incident bothered Diane so much that she fumbled to get out her ticket when the attendant asked. It was not the pain (which had already faded). It was not the injustice of the situation either, or even (really) the rudeness of the woman in question. It was something to do with the lack of recognition, Diane decided, as she boarded the steps to the train. She had wanted only to be looked at and noted, registered on some scroll that listed persons. And was that really too much to ask?
Diane almost wanted to chase after the woman, to tap her on the shoulder and say something along the lines of, “Hello. I’m here. Can’t you see me?” But she knew, of course, it was the kind of thing she would never actually do. Such a comment couldn’t be said without some measure of contempt or indignation, and to confront was not in Diane’s nature. Confrontation had been inconspicuously absent from all the other ends now flashing before her.
Gathering her strength, she heaved her suitcase to the top rack and secured it there carefully. The man beside her did not exercise the same caution. After pushing in his bag rather carelessly, he bent to collect a fallen mitten. His bag, however, had other ideas, and Diane could see, as if in a stoppage of time, it descending upon the head of its master. She acted without thought. Reaching forward, she halted the bag’s progress and held it there until the man stood up and stared at her.
The moment was long. (Probably because the bag was so heavy).
“It was falling,” she explained, tentatively.
Relieving her of the burden, he shoved in the bag more firmly. It stayed. He smiled. “Thank you,” he said, and nodded three times.
All the seats were predetermined, written onto the ticket, so all of the hurrying had been in vain. As Diane was by the window near the front, she did not know where either of the two strangers were. In the time it had taken to get on the train, the last vestiges of light had disappeared. It was officially night. Yet Diane could see her reflection in the window. Her hair was short and dark, and her eyes, for whatever reason, seemed to look grey in the winter and closer to blue in the summer. She had a round face, a very round face with full cheeks. Her fingers were slender and pale.
With these fingers she tapped on the glass as the train began to move, and returned to her thoughts on absence and presence and light. It occurred to her (what had occurred, of course, before) that the cycle would renew itself the next morning, but this did not matter unless the memory of light took precedence over the reality of dark. Her eyes flashed at her again in the blur of motion, invested with sudden warmth and recognition. Tapping her fingers once more, she watched as the train plunged blindly forth along those winding and preordained tracks.