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William J. Schrader

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Member Since: Jul, 2006

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The Platform
By William J. Schrader
Friday, July 14, 2006

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A lonely man falls in love from a distance.

William J. Schrader

The wind, armed with icy teeth off Lake Michigan, chased a paper cup down the train platform past peeling green benches and dropped it at the foot of a rusting steel column. The wind paused, and with a devilish grin, shook the hem of a red coat and caused the young woman inside to kneel and wrap her arms around chapped, cold calves. She pressed her head and its red knit cap to her knees, her eyes closed and faced away from the biting blast.
The wind moved on and swirled its thin dirty snow across the tracks, up the brown bricks of an apartment building and rattled a soot-grimed fifth-floor window. Inside, a sleeved forearm wiped away the fog created by hot breath against cold glass. It was 5:14 PM and every day, Monday through Friday, that window witnessed the same forehead pressed against its pane. Willis would remain at the window long after the 5:20 commuter had clattered away and its dingy, green cars disappeared beyond its slowly settling cloud of dust and debris.
Fading winter light found its disinterested way though the cracked window and into the shabby one-room apartment. The spattering of one frying pork chop broke the silence, and the smell of its hot grease joined the accumulated odors of a thousand other meals cooked amid that confined clutter.
He had started observing the same young woman wait for her train in September, when a summer tan clothed her arms in gold and light dresses clung to her slender body. His affection continued to follow her each evening when she wore sweaters the color of autumn leaves and the breeze played in her long, blond hair. When a blue raincoat protected her against the November rain, he cloaked her in his empathy as she shivered in the shelter of that same rusty steel column. December snows brought bright roses to her cheeks, and he longed to help, as she juggled Christmas packages, and he wondered, ‘For whom does she buy those presents?’
January winds drifted dirty snow beside the crumbling concrete, and he stood watch over her. Who is she? He wondered. What does she do? Is she a student? A secretary? A waitress? Perhaps she is a princess—escaping her protocol prison. I know she is lonely; loneliness etches lines on one’s face and demeanor—lines that only the lonely can read.
It didn't matter to him who she was or what she did, he knew without doubt, she's lovely and gentle, she is life and laughter; she is all he'd dreamed a perfect girl would be. Each night he dreamed a perfect world around her and the life they would have together—after he executes his plan. But in the tiny world of his aloneness, time expands and contracts and spins without definition—and his plan changed frequently as the months move by, but he plans…
He will wear his best suit, with just the right tie and shirt—nothing too loud—she must know he is concerned about his appearance, but not preoccupied with it. He must wear a confident countenance without appearing smug. He must be worldly, but embrace those who are not. He must be gentle without being weak. He must be…but doubt darkened his world, and he wondered, What MUST I be? What does SHE want in a man? Must I be like the men on TV who fascinate the girls? No, I’m not one of them…They are vain and shallow, without a grain of passion or compassion…But the women crave THEM as their dream men…They're all the things I've spent a life trying NOT to be—I've always striven to be myself; to be an individual without embracing individualism; but…I've never been able to resolve the perpetual plight of the individual—loneliness.
We both have qualities that need to be recognized and appreciated but, like me, she has known the sadness of being unseen, not the pain of rejection, the sadness of never knowing eye contact with another caring human being. And her sadness—like mine—isn't for herself, it is for all those who will never know the treasures of life, because they have eyes to see, but do not see.
In all his life, not one girl had ever found him worthy of her consideration; though he isn’t ugly or grotesque, and has many good qualities to offer, they never see him, they never look. What ever they are looking for in a man, they will not explore to find it, their gold must be found scattered on the ground. But she will recognize the treasures within him, when they hold hands on that platform—soon.
He is totally prepared; the right clothes, cleaned in hope and pressed with anticipation, hang in his closet; the right shoes are polished and waiting; his hair is cut just right. Soon, very soon. He'd told himself again and again and again—but timing is everything—and always, the perfect time was that glow on the horizon of tomorrow.
Spring rains brought the promise of new life—and to him, new hope. The winds from beyond the sprawling city's concrete, gathered the fragrance of new emergence, and blew it gently through his open window.
"Now, now is the time." He shouted "Today is the day; it’s spring, it’s warm, it’s glorious, it is the perfect day. Now I’ll dress in my suit, and walk down the platform toward her; I’ll pause, look up and down the track and pretending confusion; I’ll ask her if this is where to stand for the ‘number nine.’ Then I will strike up a conversation, and her stop will just happen to be mine. When we part, I will tell her, I'm looking forward to seeing her again tomorrow. It may take many trips together, but in time we will have a date for dinner, then more dates, and then someday…I can only hope."
He dressed carefully, dusted his black shoes, combed his hair again, put just the right amount of cologne on his cheeks, and brushed his suit coat one more time. He paused at the door and checked off his plan. He had the right day, the right time, the right clothes, the right hair-cut. His plan was perfect and he'd rehearsed it a dozen times.
He took his cane from where it leaned against the wall, closed the door behind him, and walked confidently down the hall while the tip of his white cane preceded him with its tap, tap, tap, tap.

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Reviewed by April Smith 7/18/2006
Aaaahhh...the older gentleman seeking the affections of a young woman. ;-) Go, Willis! I liked the imagery in your story. Thanks for sharing, April
Reviewed by Kenneth Seay 7/15/2006
I like the observation of the story.

You should have concluded it.

Suppose that day she did not show up..

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