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I didn’t meet her on a train. No one rode in the passenger cars, especially not her. It wasn’t rush hour, and people weren’t crammed against each other’s backs and fronts, shoulder bags and briefcases. None of the men dressed in tailored black suits. None of the women wore patterned tights. We weren’t seated in the corner. Other figures didn’t hang over us like lightening-struck trees.
She wasn’t nodding off. Her head didn’t fall against my shoulder. I didn’t notice its warmth seeping through the fabric of my uniform. I didn’t want to let it stay. I didn’t let it stay.
The train ride wasn’t long. I didn’t miss my stop or forget where it was. Her eyes didn’t flicker open. She didn’t mumble an apology. Neither of us was embarrassed. We didn’t watch the train empty out around us. We didn’t take it to the end of the line.
We never made it to the station. Never thought about each other again. Not as electricity moved us up the escalator. Not as we tapped our cards to clear the turnstile. Not even as the smell of salty broth and mackerel wafted out a restaurant’s fabric door.
We didn’t find the exit. It wasn’t spring, and the last tints of light didn’t creep into our eyes. We didn’t wander into a nearby park. Didn’t see the painted wine crates or hear the cawing from the trees. Not a single person was playing the shamisen or jumping rope.
We never sat down on the same slumped bench. There was no shrine on the far side of the trees. People like us had never hurt each other before. I didn’t drum my fingers against the crease of my pants. She didn’t laugh at something in the distance.
There weren’t any signs about the birds. Not a single kite or crow. They didn’t swoop down to steal anyone’s food. We weren’t not allowed to feed them.
We didn’t kiss that night. And not the next night either. We never kissed again. We didn’t cull the juiciest berries from the bushes. Our lips weren’t stained in red.
We couldn’t, and we didn’t, ride home together every night for the next six months. There were no other nights. No other trains to speak of. No express, no rapid, no limited, no local. They didn’t pull up beside us on the tracks. We didn’t see ourselves in parallel passenger cars. Our reflections didn’t speed up or away.
The orders didn’t come. I never had to leave the country. Never once told her goodbye. Never boarded a plane or crossed an ocean. There was no ocean to cross. I didn’t look back, waiting for her to not look back.
There was no one onboard the plane. None of the men dressed in tailored black suits. None of the women wore patterned tights. I didn’t fly through the sky like the kites and the crows. Didn’t steal anything from anyone. I didn’t dissect the continents. Didn’t try to stitch them back together again.
The plane never landed. The ocean didn’t exist and neither did she. The past never occurred. Didn’t mean a single thing to anyone, especially not me. The train never left the station. And her head, it didn’t fall because of gravity.