My Back To The Wind

.....by Larry Lynch

The waitress's voice betrays her. I know she is from the east. Her smile betrays her fully. There are may of us here. Some can still smile. Some. From nothing to nothing we have come. I would return her smile, I would return, only I am self-conscious. My toothbrush was stolen as I slept.

She lets me drink coffee and watch the street. She lets me linger until my coffee is cold and the cream floats still like scum on a stagnant pond. "It is old, but it is warm," she says as she warms my cup with coffee she can not sell. The dregs. "We will be serving lunch soon." She whispers apology. I must soon forfeit my seat. It begins to snow. Christmas is coming.

Under my feet the trains run. They force warm air from the tunnels and shoot it into the platforms and up the escalators. Warm air so I can sleep without shivering. Trains shooting warm air like drugs from a syringe. I wake from time to time, stiff, sometimes finding change scattered about me. I pretend to sleep, but cannot pretend to dream. When the trains are elsewhere, and there are no feet avoiding me, and no one to feign pitiful sleep for, I gather in the coins. Nineteen is too young to be so gallous, so desperate.

From my seat, I see her across the street. She brings cardboard to sit on. A hood covers a head lowered in humility. Her pleas rise white and crisp from cracked lips. Christmas is coming. Snowflakes swell to the size of quarters, but there are few to gather in. Her sign reads: I want to go home to Newfoundland.

The rocks and the fog and the empty sea can make men bitter.

My smiling waitress changes the menus, and I walk into the street. With the wind is the best direction to go - to have it at my back. It whips my hair into my face. Snow flails at the back of my head. Again and again. My father's hand. He has never seen the trains.


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