I am running. Face twisted with concern, yet with each step the muscles find slack. I thank the border control woman in every language I know.
I showed her my train ticket fifteen minutes ago, and without her kind decision, I would still be standing deep in the inching queue, sweating inside instead of out.
The officer who stamped my passport didn’t even meet my eye, pressing ink over my niceties, and I didn’t mind, not if he let me go.
I slide through the train’s chomping portal with mere seconds to spare and swear I can feel the metallic bite of air behind me.
I have been traveling since 3:30 am this morning, and my day’s journey is not yet over. Planes, trains, and automobiles, so the story goes, have carried me across the kiss of Anglo-French air. Now, my body can rest beyond another transfer as I sail over iron tracks on my way to the next station.
I have not slept, but the weekend was worth it.
Can you still miss your train if you can see it leaving?
You can’t miss something you never truly had.
You can hold this idea of a train ride,
this ticket stub of intention,
but reality was all too real for a dream.
Your real steps couldn’t keep up,
not with the way your fingers flicked through each screen.
You don’t have to slide plastic
through its arrowed cousin anymore.
Memorize the numbers on your credit card,
so you can keep charging yourself
for things without touching them.
You can toss your money to the wind
without rouging with the sting of scattered coins.
You don’t have to feel something
to wish it was yours.
But typing a thing and doing it
are not the same.
I would know,
I miss your train every time.
My long weekend in Cambridge came unexpected; an Instagram message from an old friend turned into a real plane ticket, crossing our ironic European proximity.
It must have been four or five years since we had last seen each other, and never without the family context of PC childishness and parental supervision. But we aren’t children anymore.
Seeing her was melting a younger (older) version of myself into my skin, rediscovering a girl with stories and jokes long forgotten.
The two-hour drive from Heathrow to her home just out of Cambridge was filled with endless chatter and a spinning web of memory. We tied 2010s trips through the California-Nevada desert, filling in each other’s gaps and planning our next-day hello to the larger city.
Saturday drove us on the wrong side of the road to Cambridge’s center. We walked the outline of the Grand Arcade mall, took lattes for takeaway, and indulged in Nando’s peri-peri before meandering our way to the city’s botanical garden.
Fall had crisped green into orange-yellow and scattered this over evergreen grass in nature’s layers.
We abandoned the map’s predetermined path for our own, dipping into the damp greenhouse to see tropical plants wind around each other in humid reflections. Baked by the focus of sun-lit windows, we traced plants from each part of the world until the archway released us. Outside, the simple grounds of the garden’s deepest boundaries came in shallow hills swelling in slight curves as the dirt-carved path snaked through trees and around flower beds.
The mild day cooled us enough to pull jackets back around our bodies, and by 3 pm, we had finished our tour. While we departed, time set fire’s arch, keeping it until the next morning.
This time a friend of a friend was behind the wheel, and we parked at the Grand Arcade, over-indulging in tights and knit sweaters. Soon my caffeine headache dragged us to the TikTok (and city) famous Fitzbilles for their highly-praised Chelsea buns and the cold coffee ordered only by Americans.
We unboxed our buns on the way back and stickied our fingers with the maple syrup that replaced creamed icing on the classic cinnamon rolls we were used to.
Still good, but different. Not as sticky sweet, but coating us in sugar just the same.
You can’t unlove a city
unlove the swarm that rounds out its voices
different from yours. You can’t
unknow the train lines, the rusted bus stops,
rain-soaked metal awnings.
Cities have veins
and we are white blood cells;
there are too many of us bleeding onto the street,
running out of ways to heal ourselves.
It’s not healthy to erase memory,
to erase this metro matrix other fingers
have lined on your body.
Abandoned buildings are still buildings,
even when they’ve lost life.
You can’t untangle the strands
she left on your pillow,
not without smelling me.
Just as I can’t smell my own sweater,
without the threads reminding me
I used to love you.
I can’t unlove the way it felt to love,
even if I don’t love you anymore.