He’s been waiting a long time, for as long as he can remember. Hope keeps him on that platform. Hope and the destination. He’s taken the train only twice in his life. Twice he got off at the wrong stop.
Now he wonders whether that train will ever come again. And if it does, will it stop long enough for him to get on board? Will the conductor accept his ticket?
For the hundredth time he pulls the ticket out of his pocket, as if to make sure it’s still there. He laughs. Where else would it be? He opens his hand, looks at it. It’s old and yellow, falling apart. He can barely read what it says.
Is it coming? Will it ever come? He’s not sure. He’s not even sure the train stops at this old dilapidated town anymore. He looks at the sign. It’s crooked, some letters are missing. More than a few lights along the track are broken. No one’s bothered to fix them in years. No, he’s not sure the train will ever come again.
He could go home, rest, enjoy whatever’s left of his life. But he can’t. He’s waiting. He’ll be waiting until the last day of the last month of the last year.
“I am old,” says the man to himself, “but I can still stand, and I can still sit. And as long as I can do both, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
He’s tired. Time has left its painful mark on his face, his skin, his bones. But his mind is still sharp. He can still remember the sound of the whistle, the whoosh of the train cars as they go by, the smell of old leather, of burning coal.
There is no better sound, no better smell, no better feeling than being on that train. He’s only been on it twice, but for those few moments he felt alive. And so he’ll wait, and wait and wait. He’ll wait because life is not worth living outside this platform, away from the station. Life is not worth living without the hope of someday getting on that train. And so he’ll wait. He’ll be waiting until the last day of the last month of the last year. He’ll die waiting.