Folio

SLCC's Premiere Art & Literary Magazine

10:30

Kendra Nuttall

Vic watches the pair of lovers whispering saccharine sacraments to each other, making promises they both know they cannot keep. Three years from now, Lucas will run off with Maria -the barista with the soccer ball breasts and the jalapeño accent. Lisa will feign heartbreak, pretending she had nothing to do with the dashing Australian who lived downstairs.

Nothing is sacred.

Lucas and Lisa begin to kiss passionately, and Vic's thankful one of the lamppost lights is broken, hiding their slimy saliva coated tongues. When they finally say goodbye, Lisa has tears in her eyes. She waves and watches as her lover drives away, taillights getting smaller and smaller until the truck is gone. She sniffles all the way to her seat.

Vic slumps in his own seat, glancing at the train schedule. His train arrives at precisely 10:30 each night and not a minute later. It'll be here in twenty minutes. He curses himself for arriving so early, yet this always happens. Vic can't resist people-watching; it's far too much fun.

"So where are you going?" A woman with Christmas ornaments in her hair and rings on every cherry colored finger sits next to Vic, uninvited.

"To hell," Vic answers gruffly.

The woman giggles, lighting a cigarette. Her lighter bears a picture of a kitten. "Aren't we all?" The decorations in her hair ring as she throws her head back, leaning up against the metal bench. She takes a long drag and then blows smoke from her tomato lips. "Where are you going for real?"

"Far away from here."

"Me too," she smiles, and Vic sees ugly stained teeth. He tries to resist pointing it out.

"My name is Cherry," she says, extending a hand. How fitting. It matches her claw-like nails, gaudy lips, and the baubles and ribbons in her hair.

Vic doesn't take her hand. He wants to ask her why she's walking around like a damn Christmas tree in the middle of September, and why is she talking to him, when the hood over his head, slumped position, and phone in his lap all clearly indicate that he's not looking for company.

"What is your name?" Cherry asks, eventually awkwardly sliding her hand to her side.

"Vic."

"I've seen you here before," Cherry says. "We usually take the same train, but I never see which stop is yours. I live in the suburbs, is that where you live?" She exhales more smoke.

"Your breath stinks," Vic suddenly says, not being able to contain it anymore. He's been trying to work on being less blunt, but it hasn't worked very well so far. At least he hasn't told Cherry how hideous her hair looks with the menagerie of trinkets dangling from it.

"I'm sorry, I'm trying to quit you know. My son told me he was worried about me, but I'm just so stressed. I'm a costume designer and there's a big play coming up this winter -all kinds of deadlines and stuff to meet. Makes it hard to quit."

That explains the get-up. Costume designers are natural nutcases.

"So do you work around here?" Cherry asks after a long silence.

Vic wants her to give up. How long is she going to try and keep a conversation going? He just wants to get out of here. It's 10:25 -the train will be his salvation soon.

"Okay, you don't want to talk. That's fine." Cherry stands up, grabbing a purse with a myriad of keychains and her lighter. She stamps out one cigarette and promptly lights another, silently smoking her way to death -or maybe she does it to stay alive.

By the time 10:30 rolls around, Cherry is standing at the edge of the concrete, looking down at the tracks while a haze of smoke settles, framing her against the backdrop of the night sky. "The stars are beautiful tonight." Cherry looks up for a brief moment at the polluted darkness. Vic looks at his phone, ignoring her, and begins to make his way to where he knows the train will stop and where a door will be waiting.

A low whirring begins, signaling the impending arrival of the train, and when Vic looks, he's blinded by the white light coming straight towards him.

Through blurry vision, he sees Cherry and a halo of smoke over her head. "I'm quitting," she says to him, and before Vic realizes what is happening, Cherry slips into the light and leaves her halo behind.

The train does not screech to a halt. No one screams. In fact, no one but Vic even knows what has just happened. He waits for the train to stop and for the mangled body to be discovered, but when it stops and continues onward just moments later, Cherry's body is nowhere to be seen and Vic is alone, stranded at the train station until tomorrow.

In the morning, Lucas and Lisa walk with hands entwined, laughing at some joke. They are oblivious to the filth of humanity and to the fact that Vic is perhaps the most disgusting human. He wonders if Maria and the Australian truly exist. He wonders if he'll meet Cherry in hell. He wonders if he is already in hell.