March 23, 2004

On Saying Good-bye to a Friend

Almost midnight, and no trace of her. Jehanne nervously rubbed her wristwatch. It was getting late. Dread anticipation had given way to anxious worry, and there was no more time.

Grand Central Terminal was silent, like a tomb. Oh, there was noise all about – a rumbling of subway trains, far below; New York’s sleepless bustle of traffic behind her – but from within, nothing. No waterfalls of light tumbled in through the windows above, like in the Morey photograph. Only dim shadow, through which the few people present moved in ghostly silence. A couple, seated, leaned tiredly against each other. Others padded silently across the marble. Two policemen stopped their conversation to return her gaze. Guiltily, she looked away.

A flurry of footsteps, the first notable sound from within the building that night, marked her arrival. Winded and out of breath, her form emerged from the arch marked “SUBWAY.” It was just as unrecognizable as everyone else there, but the signature was clear. Alexa had always been just a little late to everything. With a sigh of relief, Jehanne ran to meet her friend for the last time.

“Of all the nights to cancel the express!”

“Last night you’ll ever have to worry about it,” said Jehanne, with more than a little wistfulness. “One train for another, again.”

“Story of my life,” Alexa replied. “One’ll get you three.”

Jehanne smiled. They had a secret language, these two, but she wondered if it would outlive their friendship. She decided not to follow that train of thought.

But there was no time for happy reminiscences or drawn out good-byes; Alexa’s tardiness had seen to that. Perhaps it was intended that way. Jehanne had spent a fretful night attempting to plan her farewell, never finding a satisfactory answer. Instead, there was only a moment; time enough for a silent, tight embrace, one which encompassed their years together than words ever could. Her eyes were full of tears when they separated.

“I’m so happy for you,” she whispered, and meant it; the first time, truly, since she’d started saying it.

“Thank you,” said her friend, her sometime sister, and her heart broke again.

Silently, they made their way toward the platform. Jehanne searched for words again, knowing that they wouldn’t come. Finally, when they had reached the train’s doors, she turned to her companion.

“It’s like the song, you know. ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’” Inside, she wondered if they would ever meet again.

Alexa turned away, and shook her head, her eyes hidden. “Friendship is thicker than blood. You’ll see.”

But sometimes, you still bleed, thought Jehanne. Friendship wasn’t thick at all; it was a gossamer thread, fragile to the faintest touch. She reached out, as if to grasp at its ephemeral beauty one last time, but it was too late – the doors had closed. Within, Alexa placed her fingertips on the glass, already a thousand miles away.

Posted by eden on 23 Mar 2004 | Comments (0)