On a railway platform somewhere between Boston and Philadelphia, the shoulders of a young woman droop in defeat as the train pulls away from her. All her belongings shrink inside as it rounds the corner out of sight. She aims the string of curses away from herself towards a train she can no longer see. The mutherf*ckin’ train.
An aggressive window-knock commands her eyes from across the tracks. From the stationary carriage she can make out a smiling stranger pointing enthusiastically to the seat opposite him. Except it is not a stranger but the bloke she had been flirting poorly with on the train that just pulled away. Except it wasn’t the train; she turned left onto the opposite platform on her return from the bathroom.
Her belongings are exactly the same size as before; her complexion a little more flushed as she composes herself.
“Did you enjoy your day then?”, he asks, holding the prosecco bottle up to the light to read the x-ray of its emptiness.
“Sure. It was very relaxed”, she replies, sniffing the glass twice to make sure it’s hers. It is the only one on the table.
By relaxed, they both mean the successful suspension of mutual hostilities. And the absence of political ‘debate’.
“Courtesy and civility assured at all times, as Mary used to say”
“There was plenty of food to go round, too”
“And what about the speech?”
She arches a brow before looking away.
“For a moment I thought of interrupting him to ask if I was dead. And you seemed a bit emotional”
The accusatory tone is a reliable indicator that the thick wall of the garage succeeded in concealing the cracks in sibling civility; his crimson face chalked up to investment in the moment. The moment his father’s rehearsed words tumbled out feet first masking the sincerity of thanks for the sacrifices she made down the decades.
Not the moment his twelve year old self suddenly lost it with his ten year old sister minutes before he handed toasting duties over to him. When he rashly pulled her pride until it hurt as much as it once did her hair. He instantly regretted it but, like cranberry sauce, sorry isn’t something ever known to be brought into the house. Like all regressive juvenile combat, it will lie forgotten until next time a land-mine is unwittingly trodden on.
“Aye. I guess so. I’d just never heard him talk that way before”
His overriding memory from today will tumble out in correct incorrect order. He will always be glad to have been of third party service: to have enabled one of them to say things to the other the soundproofing of a long marriage prevents them from hearing when alone.
“What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?”
“There is not always an answer to every question”
“No, I mean –“
“No, that’s the best piece of advice I was ever given”