You are hiding, waiting, running, and sitting still – all at the same time. It is a Sunday afternoon on the brink of evening, around 4:17. You are seated on an uncomfortable red plastic bucket-seat chair, leftmost seat, first row in a row of three. This is the most inconspicuous spot. It is a casual choice. A normal person on an ordinary Sunday would not think twice about sitting here. But you are not a normal person; you are technically a criminal, a fugitive. When you think of the word “fugitive” the image of a middle-aged man enters your mind: five o’clock shadow stipples his jaw, an orange jumpsuit stretches across his round belly. This man is down on his luck. When you think of “fugitive”, you do not think of yourself. But that’s what you are, technically: an outlaw waiting for a train.
If this were a movie, you would be sprinting through a large, historical depot with wooden archways and marble floors, zigzagging around men in business suits, knocking over women, sending papers flying every which way. But you are not in some bustling metropolis; you are in Rahway, New Jersey. The train station is the size of a rich person’s living room. The woman manning the ticket booth could be your mom’s friend from church. She wears a green nametag with Marilyn printed on it in white block letters. She has photos of her family in gold frames hanging on the wall: a daughter in a frothy pink tutu, a chubby son with a missing tooth, smiling nonetheless, holding a baseball bat and cap. Marilyn does not know that any moment now a policeman could burst through the door and interrupt the talk radio show humming from the portable boombox underneath her desk. It is better this way: what we don’t know won’t hurt us.
Three other people sit and wait: an African American woman with a Sudoku, a man-boy behind the register at the Dunkin’ Donuts, and a teenage girl at the other end of your row, texting furiously on her cell phone. You don’t worry about the African American woman. You are not racist or sexist. Just like you, she could be a fugitive waiting for a train. But she has her blue pen poised above the Sudoku, ready and waiting to strike. You are sure that some criminals try to solve Sudoku puzzles, but you’re confident none do so in pen. It’s just a hunch, but you are a person with strong instincts.
The man-boy who works at Dunkin’ Donuts is your best bet for an ally. Watch how he arranges the Boston Creams with such care. He probably hates his job – how could he not? He grew up blocks from here. He will probably die in Rahway, New Jersey, maybe in this very station. Maybe today. No, not today – you are a criminal, not a murderer. But you are a hungry criminal. Your mouth begins to water as you read the list of twenty-six available donuts. You see only five in the bins behind Tom: Boston Cream, French Cruller, Sprinkled, Chocolate Frosted, and Bear Claw. Yes, you’ve named the man-boy Tom. He does not wear a nametag like Marilyn, but Tom seems fitting. What else are you going to do? You have seven minutes until your train arrives. Just sit and wait. Don’t make any sudden movements. Your backpack is closed and the straps are looped securely between your arms. Don’t do anything stupid.
The girl at the end of the row snaps her cell phone shut with a huff.
When she turns to look at the digital board above the door, she glances at you. With suspicion? Maybe curiosity? Curiosity, sure. You’re being paranoid if you think she’s suspicious. You are average. You are not wearing a trench coat. You are sweating an appropriate amount for the current temperature inside the station. She looks like a college student: ponytail knotted on top of her round head, blue striped pillow tucked between the handle of her suitcase, barking “Jerk off” into her phone. She seems impatient. You grin and pick up the folded magazine that was left under your seat. There – that was odd. Don’t do anything odd. Why draw attention to yourself? Nobody reads the torn copy of People magazine left under their seat at a train station unless they are trying to look casual. Don’t try so hard. You’ve got two minutes. You are almost free.
Marilyn picks up a microphone and announces that the Regional 148 is now boarding. This is your train. This is your salvation. The woman leaning against the wall closes her Sudoku and slides it into the back pocket of her jeans. The girl waits a moment, typing, typing, typing on her phone, and then drags her suitcase behind her like a stubborn mutt out for a walk in the rain. She moves awkwardly through the tunnel, the wheels catching on every sidewalk imperfection. You want to offer your help – but that would most definitely be suspicious. You do give a little wave to Tom, just because you can. You’ve nearly gotten away. You let this one slide.
Finding an open seat in a nearly empty car, you wait until the train begins its forward motion before releasing the backpack from your grasp. The college girl, oddly enough, is seated diagonally across from you. When she glances back, you catch her eye again. You look down at your backpack. You look up at her. You say, “Want to know a secret?”
Sarah Kendall is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Writing program at Johns Hopkins University. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Halfway Down the Stairs, Smalldoggies Magazine, Barely South Review, The Legendary, Bluestem, and Front Porch Review. She prefers her coffee cold and her eggs piping hot.