The echo of his footsteps was faint against the constant humming of the city’s background noises. He took a quick look over his shoulder and smirked. “Five years living here and I never walked this street”, he thought, wondering at which obscure point in his life had his natural curiosity and sense of adventure started to evaporate.
His mind was clearing. A strange sensation emerged, there, almost at his doorstep, as each stride he took in a new direction felt like a decision he should’ve taken a long time ago. He stumbled on the words of an old song, swept in the dust of his memories.
“Roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond, call me what you will.”
Years of pushing back one’s nature eventually take their toll. He’d negated so much of himself that he struggled to find a couple pieces still intact. Of all the colors he once was, only some stray shades of gray remained, like old photographs of distant events you can’t remember.
The evening was getting older. Tomorrow would come invariably, with its tasteless routine and common places. Put your suit on, conform. Take your place in the drone parade.
Surfacing from his thoughts, he lifted his head and took a look around. Two rusty lamp posts were shedding a yellow light on the damp sidewalk, in front of an old metal gate. A train station. With the quietest determination, he slowly walked to the decrepit ticket booth where an old lady was sitting. Without even taking a look, she softly put down her thick novel, took off her reading glasses and mumbled “Can I help you?”
“Can you?”, he asked. She offered no response but an inquisitive frown. He leant to get closer. “Get me the hell outta here, Love”, he heard himself whisper, as if it were a last request, his dying wish.
Seconds of heavy silence started to rain down. Then, without a word, she slowly shuffled through her papers until she found a ticket she handed him through the rusty metal bars. As he reached to grab it, she took his hand. “Twenty years ago, there would have been two of those”, she said softly, with a melancholic smile. He put a second hand over hers and remained there long enough to give ample thanks.
As he turned his back and headed for the platform, she said “when you get there, you’ll know where to head next.”
He didn’t bother reading the destination. He boarded, found a seat by a window and closed his eyes. For the first time in what seemed like ages, a genuine, warm smile rooting in his worn down heart blossomed onto his wrinkled lips.
He slid his hand in the side pocket of his coat to find his stainless flask. He sipped the last drops out of his old friend and gently put it down on the seat next to him, tucked in just enough to look like it’d been forgotten by some random traveler. “Make the next poor bastard happy”, he whispered.
The train slowly came to life and started making its way out of the station. As it gained speed into the night, the spiraling mess of a life he’d been long suffering started blurring away in the distance.
He knew he’d never be back.