...All Board The Quit Smoking Express...
...Do You Have Your Ticket?
Let's pretend we have just met on a platform and it's rainy...windy...cold. We huddle under the awning by the coffee shop we wished was open. It's not quite dark yet as I notice a stale donut lays on its side outside the spotless glass door. You take out a cigarette and light it. I turn my head away because it looks harmless, smells good sometimes. This is one of those times.
There aren't many people around. There is an older lady standing with a very tall boy who keeps repeating two words. His voice carries over the stairwell. "Marshmallow. Catnip." I feel an enormous range of emotions. What is he thinking about? Surely not a cigarette! Surely there is no catnip or marshmallows around here. The damp night wind blows and the smoke drifts into my face, up my nose. I don't want to seem rude and walk away because I know I will be boarding this train with you, and I was once just like you. Anxious because the trainride is smokefree. Annoyed that such a thing has to be. Wondering whatever will I do with my time until my next cigarette.
I chew my lip because this place, this platform...it's all an illusion. It's all about what we chose to do and be so very long ago. This meeting is not by chance and my perpetual longing for my addiction will perhaps never change. It's never been meant to. I stand there with you, and we haven't spoken yet. It will be me that first speaks to you, about something you have or something you are. I just don't know what that will be yet. I know you are already craving the next one, and I know you aren't going to be as friendly as you'd like to be.
...The Dark Night Express...
I can hear it from far away. The old black train chugging along like an abused lung is rattling down the track much slower than the others. The passengers on this train have much to be desired. I see bleached white hands and yellow patches of skin around mouths and eyes. I smell death and desire in the air, in their expired breath. Some of them I even remember from the past, but I don't see my father here. He must be on a different train.
You and I watch as it pulls up to the platform. It seems like it is too far away from the edge for us to be able to board. The conductor sticks his head out of the window. I would recognize that skull anywhere. You look from him to me and begin to back away. Here is my chance to initiate our conversation. "It's not as bad as it looks..."
Still, not enough to convince you. You aren't comfortable with these images of death and decay. Dying dreams drift in the air around you. I look at the conductor who dangles now on the sill of his station. I know it's a terrible scene. I also know it's the inevitable truth. We are all going to board Death Express one day. So the only thing I want to ask is this. If not now, when?
...The Reaper Then Decides...
Backing away from the train and the platform I watch your back as you go home towards what you have always done, and what you loathe to keep doing. Further ahead on the track stands a figure. She is in the path of the train, a crow upon Her shoulder, a crow in the air above Her. She watches me watching you. She nods Her head at me, acknowledging my thoughts. She follows you home. She watches as you talk disgustedly to yourself of how you are just too weak and just cannot care about leaving this disgraceful part of yourself behind. Forget that journey to places unknown, places that scare you irrationally before you even know what and and where they are and what they may have to offer. Her crows caw outside the window, startling you subconsciously. Exhausted, you turn on the television and light another cigarette.
Hours later a fire blazes and sirens awake the entire neighborhood. The old lady next door can barely walk and talk but her voice manages a short phrase.
"What a shame."
I barely understand her as the fire engines shoot massive hoses of water at your house on fire. I should have said more, or less. I don't know what I should have said now that you're gone. I cough a little from the smoke in the air. I notice the three crows on the telephone wire. In the gray morning something red coats the glass of the streetlamp. Further away I see Her. She watches all of this from behind the massive oak tree. She is the Phantom Queen, the Lady of Battle, Death and War. She followed you home and warned you but you were too tired to listen. You already believed it was too late. Nothing could have changed your mind.