Daybreak, it's gorgeous. Rays of a white sunrise dive through the broken windows, mixing up steam and dust. Living dirt devils rise and float across the floor, looking for something lost, then wander into shadow and fade. The light is a dustcloth thrown too late over the benches, the lattice-work, the marble, and all the things left behind.
The ceiling is all that remains of the grandeur. If you squint, if you will yourself to miss the cobwebbed molding connecting its graph of shiny white tile to the gray plaster walls. Light runs across it like water in a bowl. It would play well against the dark wood trimming the windows set into its arc, if only the wood were wiped down and allowed to glow. The small proud marble cherubs watching over the station on either end have been misused by pigeons. They look like they've had wet gray clumps of newspaper smashed over the tops of their still, sad heads.
I know you don't see it. You see the station sanitized and graffiti scarred, the dangerous ceiling tiles hidden behind a low cloud of acoustic tile, keeping you safe in case an earthquake comes and shakes loose the faltering grout. You have to stop seeing so literally.
The skirts of my best dress sweep a trail through the accumulated decades, revealing marble and polished granite in a pattern you'd have to fly to appreciate. Some suitcases still sit tame at the feet of the benches, artifacts now with the addresses they called home bleached away. I blow a kiss at an unclaimed seat, clearing a clean place to sit.
The brass lace hem of the ticket window has been raised, but there's no one there. Above it, rows of chalkboards promise arrivals and departures marked by the kisses or tears of the dead, lipstick prints wiped off on sleeves cut up for rags half a century ago. That's alright, I have my ticket, wrinkled in the pocket of my mother and her mother and her mother, saved just for me. Good any time, but please make it soon.
I light a cigarette and in the morning light the smoke is a soul going home. The secret is that I've been to this station before. Consciously, I've risen from the bench and gone to the pink marble ladies' room to puff face powder through the underwater air, the steam of the engine screaming outside as it gives up and moves on. Some of these suitcases are mine. In the morning it's innocent and dear. Once the train leaves and the sun's burned long enough to yellow, the shadows get long and hungry. The siren song of light catching on broken glass is louder. The musk of unwashed years rises with the heat. Sunset comes red like blood, painting the portraits of the runaways and escapees, the young boys crushed on the tracks. Once night falls the ghosts come icy through the dust, cold bones prickling for a ticket home.
My skirt is dirty from climbing down here, my sleeves torn on the hole in the demolition fence. Outside, above me, yellow eyed bums patrol the streets of the rubble between these ruins and the city built on their ashes. You thought they hustled the blind men into the YMCA, you thought they paved those streets and folded up the fences. But a tomb is a tomb is a tomb.
A whistle enters through the cracked glass. I know it's not the wind. It's time, or I can wait here again with my gaze fixed backward until the chill gets to me and I escape. It calls again, closer. I look toward the wide arch of the entrance and my eyes follow my own solitary track.
I wonder where you are. I whisper your name.