One Late Night Train Ride
It is 2:45 AM in New York at a quiet bus station. The skies are very dark grey and the air is heavy. No one is in sight besides a big, dirty bus, Elle and Mack.
The bus pulls up to the lonely stop. Mack walks on and sits down by herself in a seat across from the only other passenger on the bus.
Elle: Pretty late for a bus ride, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s pretty early. Depends on the way you’re lookin at things this time or day. Is it Saturday night or Sunday morning? All depends on how you want to see it I suppose. Either way, its one late night train ride, that's for sure!
Mack: Yup. Mack looks out the window in hopes that this odd, quirky 30 or so years old woman will stop talking to her.
Elle: Names Elle. Yourself?
Mack: Uhh, yeah. I’m Mack
Elle: Mack? Hmm, different. Mackenzie? I like it.
Mack: It’s just Mack. Well, yeah. It’s Mackenzie, but I’m Mack.
Elle: Well what are you doing out here at this time or day? A little odd for a girl your age. How old are you anyways?
Mack: (Mack turns to Elle and takes a deep breath before speaking) I’m 17. Look, I’m just trying to get out of here, okay? I know it’s late, or early, or whatever. I’m done with New York. Why’s everyone always trying to come out here all the time anyways? I know I know. “The city that never sleeps”. “The city for dreamers”. Well America, maybe some dreamers dream a different dream than every other dreamer out there. Maybe some people would rather a quiet empty house rather sometimes. Parties every other night, drugs everywhere, it’s not for all of us. Sure the city lights are nice to look at outside your bedroom window every night, but the cult of homeless people, including women and children, the prostitute house down the street and the 43% of my grade that sells drugs isn’t so good.(Elle is listening intently and looking into Mack’s harsh eyes the entire time she talks. She begins to ramble on, but Elle doesn’t mind) Look around here, uhh, Elle. Take a look out these windows. Do you see anything beautiful? I sure as hell don’t see anything. I’m just a student. I’m just trying to get out of here. This isn’t for me anymore. 17 years of this. 17 years of my mom in and out of addiction, my dad trying to keep everything afloat, my brothers having parties every weekend. Do you know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night to three drunk guys in your bed? I need something simple. Boring even. Anything but here.
Mack: I’m sorry, okay? I really am, but I haven’t let that out, like ever, and i really needed to.
Elle: Why don’t you come sit with me?
Mack: (Hesitant, she grabs her small backpack and slides into Elle’s seat).
Elle: I’ve been there, but maybe the complete opposite. I grew up in a very small town in Michigan. I wanted one thing my entire life and it was a way out. By my senior year in high school, I knew it was time. I was ready. I got accepted to art school here, got a plane ticket and left the day school got out. Look around you. Maybe you can’t see it sometimes, but this city is amazing.
Mack: (Shaking her head and looking away), No. No no no.
Elle: When I first got here it felt like a whole new world. I watched the sun rise and set from my dorm room every day and every night. I always loved art and music and people. This is the place for all of that. The stars shine so much brighter. The music is so much more passionate and the people are all crazy.
Mack: Well, we are different then.
Elle: Ahh, no, let me finish. I was in your place one day. I felt this way too. Too overwhelmed to even get out of bed some days or even get ready for school. Always thinking to myself “What am I even doing here? I am not from here. I know no one here except my few friends, roommates and teachers. My family probably hates me for leaving them. Maybe I should just leave”. One night, I took a bus at 3:50 to a the airport and as I was ready to board, I remembered everything I had wanted from this place. I wanted freedom, a new start, independence. I was not going to leave until I had that. So I returned back to my room and thought about everything. Since that day when I was 23 I have never thought of leaving again.
Mack: Did the city give you what you wanted?
Elle: Yes, of course, but not enough. I can never have enough freedom. Never enough art. Never enough music. Never enough of anything beautiful. So, until I die, I will stay here and live. This is true for every place in the world as well. What I think about every day is what is this city giving me? Not like money or power or a job, but happiness and love and a beautiful setting. What does a city give you? What does anything give you? That is what matters to me.
Mack: Ahh, maybe. Hmm, you make me think about New York differently.
Elle: New York is a place of wonder and amazement to every person who visits it. You can stay on this train and ride it out until you come to a stop that you feel that suits you..
Mack: (Interrupting her and sounding unsure) Well…
Elle:(Interjecting her change of heart) Or, you can get turn around, go back to where you belong, and force this city to give you what you want from it. You can’t take anything from it if you don’t want to, or you can take every good thing from it and let it impact you the way you want it to.
Mack: Maybe I should give it another try.
Elle: Good. There’s a nice Thai place right down the street from the next stop. It’s phenomenal. Want to stop in? I know it’s late, but the owner is a good friend of mine and he stays late hours. He would whip us up something yummy in a jiffy. What do you say?
Mack: Hmm, well I should get home. I am already out though, right? Thai sounds good to me right now.
Mack and Elle sit in the same seat. As Mack begins to doze off, Elle takes out a sweater and lays it on Mack’s lap. She puts her arm around Mack’s shoulders and squeezes her a bit. They stay on the train until they reach a stop in Vermont. She wakes Mack and they begin exiting the train into the cold air and start walking toward the Thai place that is in sight.
Mack: Wait. If I was on the train to get away and you said you never wanted to leave again, what were you doing on a 2:45 train?
Elle: Mack, it’s beautiful out here. Everything looks crazy this late.
The two friends walked closer and closer up to the restaurant. As they got closer, Mack grabbed Elle’s hand. Elle, a bit startled, looked up at her. She held her hand back and smiled. They walked into the restaurant and sat down. The new and unlikely friends sat down and shared a 3:28 AM dinner together in Vermont at a Thai restaurant, all because of one late night train ride.