The Reflection Seat (an imagined story)

“Stop. Just. Stop.”

Packing pieces of her life back into boxes could wait. Now she only wanted to watch his face fade to dark as she closed the door. No, she wouldn’t look back for that. He was already faceless in her mind.

Shielding her hands from the cold, JoAnne felt the rail pass in her coat pocket. Still there, she thought.

Touching it took her back 25 years. Maybe 30, she wondered. 

JoAnne’s mother, Ada, closed a door then to put abuse behind her. That was not going to be the life for her daughter. A one-way ticket took Ada and her little girl to a new city; a new life. For hours JoAnne was fixed on her mother’s lap staring at passing reflections in the train window. Years later Ada still called that trip their reflection ride.

Reflection. That’s what JoAnne wanted - needed - now. The station wasn’t far, ten minutes maybe. The cold was biting but JoAnne could make the walk.

There was an empty seat just inside the door. She took it and quickly pulled an envelope down around her thoughts.

At first things were good with him. But isn’t that how “at first” always is? Somehow the small cracks are puttied over. Frailties underneath a freshly painted wall you don’t see. Not at first. For awhile you look past them.

Then over time as new days dull into routine days, those cracks move. You touch them and they aren’t so small anymore. They’re big enough to swallow you. JoAnne remembered what her mother said. That once those cracks show up, “they’ll hold you down and choke the love - maybe the life - right outta you.”

She tilted her head away from the window and looked at the glass in front of her. She hadn’t noticed it before. 

JoAnne’s reflection in that glass was fresh and alive. She touched her hair gently, just the way Ada touched it so long ago on their reflection ride. And the warmth of all those touches flooded back. 

At the next stop, JoAnne stepped across the gap onto the platform and into the freshness of mid-morning. She passed a young woman boarding the train. JoAnne heard the muffled cry and saw the streaks that brushed away tears leave behind.

“Take my seat,” JoAnne said. “That one,” pointing.

The reflection seat.

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