The train slows at the place where the river view opens up and the conductor announces, “Westley Station,” always giving the first syllable all the stress. Crossing the old creaky bowstring truss bridge I can see rippled flakes of black paint shearing from the ironwork.
My kid turns fourteen next week, same age I’d been the summer I “joined” the Bowstring Boys by climbing the scaffolding out under the trestle and letting go just as the train hit this bridge. It was a kick, beating back breathless to the surface, and then telling everyone how easy it was. Piece of cake.
Today the water’s grey-blue and pearly. I push my face up against the window glass to see it cresting up against the abutments. The doors open up all along the platform. It’s 6:32. We’re on time.
Since June, new blood’s been coming aboard at Westley. Recent grads, young and sparkly. I’ve taken notice of a girl, a young woman I should say. She normally sits towards the back having gotten in with some of the old guard.
There’s quite a crowd this morning, jammed, every seat and she comes back down the aisle and sits next to me. She gives me this little crack smile, like she’s trying to keep a secret and says, “Oh, there’s some schmutz on your nose.”
Facing herself forward, she takes out an ad-studded glossy magazine, and starts slowly flipping the pages, every now and then licking her finger to get a good pull.