As She Wanders
She exhales a cloudy fog. Winter makes her breath swallow the shadows, envelope adjacent cars. Why have I never crossed to the other side of the tracks? she wonders. Everyone says the people who live there are not like me. How exactly are they different?
Crossing her arms, she moves with clumsy footing, tentative. Regardless, she is certain that she is moving forwards and forwards is always the right direction. I am not going to think about the people on the other side of the tracks. Stories have been told about children who ventured that way against the express wishes of their parents and bad shit happened. Don’t risk it.
Loose ice crystals dampen her socks but she she can ignore the sensation. She never lacked willpower. Don’t think about the other side of the tracks, she keeps saying to herself, over and over, like a mantra, until it feels as if even her mind is out of breath.
Out of the darkness, there is a silver gleam of steel. It stretches in a straight line, and parallel, there is another gleaming rail. It makes her think that if maybe if she were on a beach right now, she wouldn’t have this constant reminder of the tracks. The fucking tracks!
It’s funny, she thinks, recalling the many stories — the gossip — that has spread about the people who live on the other side. Every child who came to a bad end over there was carrying a cup or a cap or, if they were ambitious, a bucket. Rumour was that they were looking for a few quarters or loonies or maybe some scraps from the table.
And every time they set out, even though they’d heard that almost no one ever came back, they would say to themselves, well, maybe for me it will be different. Because I am cuter. Or I am better spoken. I can juggle. I can dance. I can fart with my hands. I have talents that will be recognized over the side of the tracks.
Flakes gathered and slowly become mountains. Pushing through the snow, her toes became thoroughly bloated. “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” she mumbles in a sing-song kind of way.
Is that the kind of talent they’re looking for over the side of the tracks?
But the snow has covered the tracks. And in fact, I am not even sure which side of the tracks is my side, and which side is THEIRS.
I could be on the wrong side of the tracks, already.
from “Les Neiges d’antan” December 1, 2016 at Le Cagibi