On a Bench in the Metro


Lester came to Five Points station at the busiest time of the day, caught between those going to work and those coming home – he in the latter. While standing by the track, he noticed a visibly anxious man. He appeared hyper vigilant, looking back and forth as if he were looking for someone. Lester felt that he should avoid eye contact with this person at all costs, because there was an air of desperation with this individual; his mannerisms suggested he may ask a favor of the first person to pay him any mind. Despite this, he could not help himself. This oddly-acting person became an object of his fixation. Every so often, he found himself passing a look at the man, staring as people innocuously do in public spaces. Stop it he tried to tell himself. Stop looking at him. Lester tried to divert his attention, first to a woman feeding milk to her baby, then to a man picking his nose by the drink machines. Still, he found himself looking back at the man in intervals. The man was now actively trying to get the attention of passersby, tapping some of them on the shoulder as they walked the platform. None were receptive to his advances, some politely declining him while others plowed straight past him. Lester’s interest in him became a nervous tick. It’s only a matter of time before he comes over here he thought. He found himself chancing another look in the man’s direction only to realize he had been discovered. They made direct eye contact. The man smiled at him and began walking over. Lester tried to resume staring straight ahead, but it was too late. A finger prodded him on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, sir-“

“Hm?” Lester pretended to just notice him, snapping out of his feigned unawareness.

“Oh, hey. Sorry to bother you, but could I have a moment of your time?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Are you sure?” he asked. Yeah, bud. You already got me locked into this, let’s just get this over with. Lester nodded.

“Okay, thanks. I got off work an hour ago and I’m running late as-is.  I’m supposed to get off at North Avenue, but this woman ends up sitting next to me on the train. She’s all emotional, I mean a total wreck. Saying she needs to get to Five Points and deliver a letter to someone but she’s in no state to do it herself. The lady practically begged me to bring it for her. Now, as she’s telling me this, I’m thinking ‘Sorry lady, but I’m running late enough as-is’. But I just couldn’t say no to her, she was so distraught. I agreed to help her out. You’d do the same, right?”

Lester nodded unwittingly at the man, trying to understand what this had to do with him.

“Anyway, it’s been a full twenty minutes by now and I still haven’t seen this person I’m supposed to give it to. I hate to let that lady down, but I really gotta run now. Can you deliver it for me?” He pulled a brown enveloped out of his pocket and held it out.

Lester eyed it suspiciously, not fully committed to the prospect of waiting for someone who might never arrive. I gotta run too, bud. My wife is probably home by now. “Oh, I don’t know-“ The man shoved it into his hand before he could object, thanked him and started to walk off. “Hey, hold up a sec, man!” Lester yelled after him. The man was already near the platform’s exit.  “Sorry, I gotta go!” he shouted back.

“Who am I looking for?”

“Oh, right! It’s for a tall, red haired woman named Lindsey. Thanks again, brother.”  With that, he vanished up the stairs.

Lester looked at the time on his phone. Alright, I will wait five minutes. If she is not here by then, I’m out of here. The next train to North Ave was about six minutes away so he had time to kill. He bought himself a cold drink out of the machine and spent the remainder of his time checking his phone, glancing up occasionally to see if a woman fitting the man’s description had appeared. When his train arrived, she still had not appeared. He briefly considered handing the letter off to someone else but stuck it in his pocket and boarded the train.

 

Later that evening, Lester and his wife Aubrey were sharing a bottle of wine and reading separately when he remembered the guy and the envelope.

“Something crazy happened today.” he said.

“Oh yeah?” she inquired absently. “Tell me about it.”

“When I was waiting on MARTA to get home, some weirdo gave me this envelope.”

“Some guy gave you an envelope? Did you know him?” Aubrey briefly broke concentration from her reading to swig the remainder of her glass and found it empty.

“Yeah, at the station.  No, I didn’t know him. Some random guy. Check it out.” Lester went over to where his coat was slumped over the loveseat and retrieved the envelope.

“Ooo. I wonder what’s in it?” She said coyly. “Maybe a million dollars?”

He laughed. “Doubt it. Nah, this guy wanted me to wait for someone and give it to them.  They didn’t show up. I think it’s a letter.” She got up with the empty glasses and went over to the sink.

“Have you looked at it?” she asked, over the sound of cabinet doors banging open and closed.

“No, I haven’t. Should I?”

“Up to you, babe. Maybe it’s important and needs to get to someone. Might find an address inside. Hey, didn’t we have another bottle of Yellow-Tail or did we drink that too?”

“I don’t know, babe.” Lester thumbed the corner of the packaging where it was slightly ripped. “Yeah, I’m just gonna open it and see.” He tore the corner, widened the hole with his fingers, and pulled out a folded sheet of yellow loose-leaf. There was writing on it. “It just looks like a handwritten letter.” he said.

“What?” she exclaimed.  There was a bang in the kitchen and Aubrey came running back into the den, snatching the unfolded letter from his hands.

“Woah. What are you doing?”

“Lester, you probably shouldn’t read this.” she said, holding it out of his reach. “This is someone else’s private business.” She examined it. “See, there isn’t even an address on this. This was meant to be delivered directly to someone.”  Lester stood up to take it. Aubrey took a step back and hid it behind her back.

“Okay, well if there’s no identifying information on it then I don’t see why we can’t read it. It might have something juicy.”

“Lester, NO.” She left the room with it.

“Yeah, just go ahead and throw the cool letter away. Bet it had directions to where those million dollars are buried.”

“You’re dumb.” A minute later, she returned with an unopened bottle of wine and their glasses. “Look, I found another bottle.  Let’s have another drink?” She poured some out for the two of them and they drank and watched television together until they were both tipsy and it was time for bed.

 

In the morning, Lester decided he was going to find the letter after Aubrey left for work.  As soon as she had kissed him on the cheek and gone out the door of their apartment he had begun digging through the waste bin looking for it. It must have said something crazy he thought.  He found the crumpled ball within and unfolded it to read. It tore slightly as he spread it out on the table. The writing was still very legible despite the webbing of hard creases.

Hello, Lindsey. You do not know me, and we have never met but I know who you are. I could not think of a better way to contact you about this. I am a coward. The truth is, I have been sleeping with your husband, Frank, for the past six months. I apologize for how sudden this is and how it will affect you, but I can’t keep this a secret any longer. I can’t let another woman be hurt by my selfish actions. I did not tell Frank I was doing this. I know he will not be happy about it, but I think it is for the best. I have been meeting him less frequently the past couple of weeks because I have made the decision to end things. The guilt was becoming unbearable. The thought of how I was affecting someone else’s relationship without them knowing was making me feel like a horrible, horrible person. I am so sorry, Lindsey. I wish we could get together sometime so that I could tell you everything, but I do not think that’s possible right now. Perhaps in the future. If so, I will reach out to you. Again, I am so sorry, and I wish only the best for you.

There was no signature at the bottom. Lester read the letter one more time, slightly disappointed that there was no other information regarding the identities of these mystery people.  “I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t know these people.” he said out loud.  Aubrey is so dramatic he thought. He crumpled it back up and threw it away, then left for work.

 

Months passed without Lester giving the letter another thought, until one day he was waiting for MARTA again and happened to see a noticeably tall, red-headed woman walking into the station with a man. The couple walked entwined, the woman laughing very hard at something the man had said; he was carrying several bags of clothing – the result of a shopping spree that appeared to be at his expense. Over the sounds of the train station, Lester heard the man speak her name, its syllables passing straight through him and almost settling into the jumble of throwaway noise. “Lindsey, mind the post there.” Lester felt a circuit complete in his brain. No way, he thought. That’s gotta be the same woman from that letter. He watched the couple make their way to a stone bench not far from where he stood, and casually walked over to the other side. This isn’t weird he thought. I just want to know. He briefly made eye contact with the man. Hello, Frank. He nodded politely and sat behind them, exhilarated. If this was the same Lindsey and Frank from that letter…The idea that he alone held the discretion of Frank’s adulterous activities made him feel powerful. There they sat, only a few feet away from Lester, the judicator of this woman’s chance to leave scot-free. He was simply another person on the bench, staring at his phone. Hidden in plain sight, within perfect earshot of Lindsey and —

“Yoni stop it!” she squeaked, squeezing the man’s thigh. She was letting him twirl a pendent around on its chain in front of her eyes, pulling it out of reach as she snatched for it.

Yoni? I thought this guy’s name was Frank. Lester thought. Then he understood.

 

When his train arrived, he took his seat on board feeling deflated and strange. When his stop came he did not depart, choosing to ride a bit longer. It took him all the way north, past Dunwoody, before he decided to ride back down towards North Ave. His thoughts were scattered. He thought of Lindsey and her shopping spree. He wondered what Frank was up to. He thought about the nervous looking guy who just wanted to do the right thing, but really had to get somewhere. He watched the city growing closer, and all the different people coming and going. He thought about the note that was buried under so much trash all those months ago. Wondered what became of the person who wrote it.

Walking up the steps to North Avenue, he felt the full weight of his discovery on his shoulders. He found himself walking straight past his apartment. Aubrey must be working late again he thought. The street was a bustle of people. Some walked alone, some in groups, and others in pairs. He made a game of trying to guess who the honest ones were, but he could not tell. Don’t let that jade you he told himself. Yet, he envied the wide-eyed young couples, still caught in a dream. Lester felt his sense of autonomy return. Well, he thought smugly, if the truth comes down to where we are on the bench, then at least I sat where I wanted.  

 

Alex is a 25 year old graduate student who was born, raised and resides in New Orleans.  This piece marks his return to creative writing after not doing very much of it since high school.  Aside from his writing, Alex is a force to be reckoned with on the electric guitar.  He is a free spirit who enjoys the great outdoors and late night adventures with friends.

If you enjoyed Alex’s fiction, be sure to check out Big Easy Magazine’s other featured short fiction writers!  This includes recent pieces by Nolan, Adam and Fritz!

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