By the time he reached Union Station, his lids were heavy. The journey from Roanoke to Chicago had taken nearly a day and he’d been too nervous to sleep. Had his mind been lucid, he may have noticed the intricate curvature of the windows – may have even thought to stop and buy a postcard for his mother – but his thoughts, as they often did, roamed elsewhere.
The crowd, which he noticed but didn’t think about, hurried in countless preoccupied directions. A mustached man dodged past travelers, his gait nervous and agitated. A young woman dressed in an olive frock that would’ve brought vehement stares just ten years prior balanced a leather suitcase in each gloved hand as she maneuvered her way through the human sea. A young boy who could’ve reminded Drew of his little brother had he taken the time to look, skipped merrily amongst the pressurized mob, his mother – a broad, petticoat-clad woman ostensibly unaware of the season – hollering after him.
Drew clutched his weathered suitcase, knuckles white with adrenaline. For a moment it occurred to him that he felt peaceful here, a speck of anonymity amidst a swarm of stories more regal than his own. The idea, a flame lit then extinguished, bolstered his posture and quickened his pace. There was a rhythm here – a rhythm of agendas.
June had arrived eight days ago bearing its usual grievance of insufferable heat, and as he made his way to the line of taxis parked outside the station he did his best to ignore the itch under his jacket. It was an old tweed suit coat, the pants to which had long ago worn thin – an heirloom that he was both proud and embarrassed to sport. He was convinced the torn sleeve gave him away, that everyone around him saw what he was trying to conceal. Even in his wearied state, he could feel their eyes bearing into it – his mother’s halfhearted effort to patch an un-patchable hole – as they questioned his presence in their city.
Hidden behind the assuredness of his step was hesitation. Could he go back? What would happen if he did? What would happen if he didn’t? He hid his apprehension well, behind a crooked smirk that spoke everything but the truth. Yet even the taxi driver, a stout man with light hair and thin eyebrows who asked “where to?” in a language he didn’t understand, noticed him glance over his shoulder to see if the train was still there – to see if maybe, despite the sheer impossibility of it, he could go back.
* * *
Such is the excuse for my latest hiatus from the blogging world – the beginnings of an unnamed novel that has unexpectedly stolen my time, energy, and heart.
My life is a ceaseless struggle between genres. Nonfiction is constantly sucking me into its vortex, alluring me with glistening truths, but I’m not immune to fiction’s beckoning. I see its promises, too – an ocean of limitless possibility carrying ships that sing out to me like sirens.
It’s fierce and exhilarating and positively maddening, this tug and pull between what is and what could be.
So if you’re wondering where I’ve been recently, the answer is Chicago, circa 1925, apprenticed at 15 North Wells Street. There’s someone there calling me, and her name is Fiction.