By Mary Wolmart
The station was mostly empty. She listened intently to a hum; it was low, mechanical, persistent and pulsated in her ears. She didn’t know where it came from but it comforted her. It made her mind focus on something other than her thoughts. The stations were always this quiet late at night. She imagined the way it was during the day: the platforms crowded with people, many with suitcases, some homeless and others, like her, just trying to get home. She looked at her watch and the digital numbers read “1:34.” In the distance she hoped to hear the sound of the tracks rattling, a metallic click that signaled a train was nearby, but all she continued to hear was the pulse of the unknown machine humming nearby. In a city full of people she wondered how anyone could feel alone but she knew that she did and thought that perhaps the empty platform was just a manifestation of her mind. Maybe the platform had people on it but she could not see nor feel them. It made her uncomfortable. She smiled slightly as the PA system announced that an “uptown train was approaching the station.” Her body was sore and her leg was asleep as she stood up from the bench. The train eased into the station and she listened to the machine hum for two more beats before the doors opened, inside the cart was just as empty as the platform.
There was a sleeping man in the double seats in the corner and two people who looked awfully out of place; one a middle aged man in a gray pinstriped suit and a red tie, the other a woman about his age wearing a pencil skirt and a blue blouse. She stared at the odd duo for a second before occupying a double seat for herself. She closed her eyes and hoped napping would make the ride go faster but found herself eavesdropping instead of the couple nearby. She couldn’t make out what they were saying as their voices were nothing more than quick whispers. The seats were cold and uncomfortable so she shifted and realized the couple had stopped talking. She looked up she caught the two staring at her. They quickly broke eye contact and continued to talk about papers in the woman’s hands. She turned away in her seat. She could still hear the fervent whispers. She closed her eyes tight until they hurt. It’s ok, she thought as the sound of the train washed the whispers out.
Home. She left the keys on the kitchen counter, dropped her bag and quickly made her way to the bathroom. The hallway felt long and winding in the dark. She swore she could see shadows dancing in the corners of her eye but she ignored the thought and felt the door the bathroom. She stepped inside and shut the door, the bright light blinding her for a second. Once refocused she could see herself in the mirror. Her reflection stared back. Eyes dark from runaway eyeliner stared back at her. She leaned closer until her nose touched the glass. It felt cold against her skin. She stepped back and pulled up her shirt. She pinched the sides of her stomach, the fat on her hips and her thighs. She tugged at them hard until the skin was pink. She wished she could tear all the skin off her bones and be left with nothing. She imagined what it would feel like, to tear herself apart. She hoped that through the pain it would be cathartic, but she knew better than that.
She dropped her arms and continued staring at herself. There were some days when she could see her face and see some semblance of someone who could possibly be attractive, she could understand how her round eyes might be seen as cute or the way her smile was big. But now she just saw eyes that reminded her of a raccoon’s and a smile that was toothy and above all, fake. Her reflection’s face scrunched up as she punched the mirror. Shards landed in the sink and she grabbed one. She took it and pressed it on her forearm and cut along it’s length, making one long line from wrist to elbow. She imagined the pool of blood that would gather from the wound but there was none. The counter was still white and pristine, her reflection still staring back through and intact mirror. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Her mind was bustling. There was a cacophony of sounds like the wings of locusts, taking up space in her ears and flooding her mind with the image of her being swallowed whole. She opened her eyes and the sounds subsided, leaving nothing in its wake but the ringing in her ears. Several minutes passed with her standing there, trying to get the image of her cut arm out of her head. She took another deep breath. She leaned over the sink and turned the tap on, gathered a bit of soap in her hands and began washing her face. She sighed again before turning off the water and looked back at the mirror. Her eyes were clearer and her skin slightly pink from the heat.
Finally, she turned away from the mirror and left the bathroom. In her room she undressed slowly, tossing her clothes to predetermined corners of the room and got into bed. In the dark she heard her phone vibrate. She grabbed it and saw an unread message, “Are you ok?” She looked at it for a moment and without hesitation slowly typed into her phone, “Yes, I’m fine.” She pressed entered and almost immediately there was a reply, “good.” She stared at the screen seemingly unable to comprehend what the message said. With a sigh she set the phone on her night stand. She turned away in her covers and took several deep breaths again. She whispered to herself, it’s ok, it’s ok, hoping it would bring her some comfort. The quiet whirring of the fan above her was the only sound she heard above her own whispers. Eventually she would stop saying these words and drift to sleep. Even so, beneath her closed eyes was her reflection, with dark eyes staring back at her and the LED screen showing the words, “I’m fine.”
Mary is a sheep born and raised in New York City. Hobbies include coffee, cats, occasionally passing as a writer, and Netflix. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org