82 - Final Stop


A man walks north along the road. His face is dry and chapped from the cold, relentless northerly wind. The constant frown, tired eyes that seem always on the verge of tears, and deep lines running from his eyes and starkly framing his temples tell the story of a man who has seen many hardships, but done little about them. His feet, weighted with the troubles of his many journeys, shuffle and scuff against the cracked grey pavement every few steps.

He has endured, but he has not overcome. He is a man defeated.

Under his arm he carries a framed black-and-white photograph of an old barred window with chipped paint on the failing framework. Every so often he stops walking and stares at the photograph, sighs, and continues on his way.

The man comes to a raised railroad crossing. He takes a seat on a nearby guard rail, his joints burning with the fire of arthritis as he bends. He returns to the photograph for nearly two hours without getting up, raising his head only twice, briefly, to check the time on his cheap watch.

In this time several people pass by in cars, many paying the man no notice, lost in their phones or their own thoughts. Others see the man but pretend not to, afraid that in his gaze they’ll glimpse of a truth of the world they’d rather have kept hidden from themselves – the truth that not everything is all right, that we do not all end up happy.

A small few passersby slow and consider the man: they wonder what he’s thinking, what he’s doing, what he plans to do. Some guess his plans correctly; they do nothing to stop it.

The whistle of the train rings loud from the east. The man snaps to attention and gazes down the tracks to the singular, growing light that portends his coming fate. His shoulders rise and fall slowly as he takes a deep breath.

A man sets a photograph down against a metal pole, steps in front of a moving train, and no one ever asks why until he’s already dead.