a story
{scintilla day 11}


Tell a story that you haven’t told yet.
Give it a different ending than the one that really happened.
Don’t tell us where you start changing things. Just go.


It was midnight when I got off the train. My first trip to New York, in the days before cell phones and the mobile devices we all carry with us everywhere we go these days.

I’d spent the entire trip reading books and writing poetry, seated alone in an almost-empty car, wearing my favorite vintage dress and the old men’s overcoat I lived in back then. I carried with me an almost-empty purse and little else, being too young to care about something as silly as planning ahead. Being too naive to think about it. Blind faith is a beautiful thing.

I was on my way to meet someone. An invitation that, looking back, should never have been accepted. As much as anything, I was excited to see the big city. I grew up in a tiny rural town of 10,000. New York was about as foreign as I could imagine. And suddenly, I was there, standing in Grand Central Station in my shabby clothes and uncomfortable shoes, and there was no one there to greet me.

Too late, I realized that I didn’t even have a phone number for the person I was supposed to be meeting. Nor did I have an address. Somehow, I had left all my common sense back home on the dresser. Blind faith may be beautiful, but it’s not very practical.

The station was fairly quiet at this time of night, though not deserted. I wandered back and forth, eyes frantic, looking. Surely, he was there, somewhere, looking for me. Surely. I passed people sleeping in dark corners on the floor. People that clearly lived in those corners. At one point, I noticed a man lying in the middle of the floor, unconscious. He didn’t look drunk or homeless or derelict, he looked like something was wrong. What crowd there was walked past, never looking down, rushing by, stepping over. I stood there, staring.

Finally, just as I was about to scream and find a guard or someone who could help, another stranger stepped in and took over. I never did find out how that story ended, but I was glad to know that someone cared enough to stop and help, that I hadn’t stepped into a completely callous world.

By this time, my internal panic alarm was ringing loudly in my ears. Drowning out everything but the fact that I had come to this giant city with no idea where to go. That I was a fool for being there in the first place. Who was I kidding? I continued to wander back and forth across the lobby, trying to look far more collected than I felt.

“Excuse me?” A kind voice from behind turned my head.

It was a young man that had been on the train with me. A young man I had noticed, because he was dressed like a skinhead. At least that’s what we called them in those days. A young man I had been a little wary of, primarily because of his appearance.

“You look lost.”

I almost started to cry right then, but somehow I managed to hold back the tears and explain my situation. He offered to wait with me, or to try and help me figure out what to do. He was kind. He kept me talking because he knew I was freaking out. I wasn’t fooling anyone.

After a few minutes, I told him I would be fine, that it would be okay, that I didn’t need any help. Of course, I did, but I wasn’t about to admit it. He accepted my answer politely, and while we didn’t have any further conversation, I felt him hovering nearby, watching over me.

A while later I went to find the ladies room, and when I returned, he was gone.

A little while after that, I got on another train.

The one that would bring me back home, none the worse for the wear, but most definitely, a little smarter.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

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{scintilla day 11}

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