She Would Have the Most Beautiful Smile

You sit on the train as it chugs along. You sit in your seat with your hands in your lap, eyeing suspicious stains on the gum-littered handrails and the germ-ridden cushions. You hope, fleetingly, it's the polar express, and that someone will break into song, but then you don’t because you feel stupid for thinking it. You suspect, for a moment, it's the Hogwarts express, and that someone will show you a spell, but then that moment is gone and you feel stupid for thinking that, too.

Because you know it's just a train, and you're just riding it. Though where it's going, you couldn't say. That’s okay because you don’t think about it too much, because if you do then your head hurts so you don’t want to.

There are people on there with you; in fact, it's pretty crowded, now that you noticed them. You could always ask them where you’re headed. You look around, wondering who knows and who doesn't know, and finally you see a girl, sitting just across the aisle. She looks reasonably intelligent, so you think it’s safe to say that she would know where you’re going.

So you move to sit next to her, and you think to yourself, Man, she would have the most beautiful smile.

You are only vaguely aware that the other people begin to disappear. You try to make her smile.

You tell her she's beautiful, but she does not look at you. She does not hear you. She does not smile.

You tell her, a little louder, that she's creative. At this, she replies, “How would you know?”

But you think you know, so you tell her she's unique. She says without a smile, “Only when there’s no one else on the train.”

The train is empty, but you insist on telling her that she is kind. She tells you, cynically, “All are kind before you get to know them.”

You tell her she’s smart, and she explains, “You don’t know my mind.”

But you think you know, you know you do, and so you tell her she is worth something.  She insists, “Something can only be worth something if it is valued by someone.”

But you just want her to smile so you tell her, this girl on a train going nowhere, that she is worth something to you. This validation is not enough, for still she does not smile.

Before she can tell you the next thing on her mind, the train fades away, and you realize you never asked where it had been going. But now you know the destination. But instead of a new place or a new face, you only see the girl, trapped behind a pane of glass. And you're just in your bathroom, looking up from the sink. And you think, Man, she would have the most beautiful smile.

           You wish you had known, but you didn’t know and if you did know you wouldn’t have thought you were standing still and going somewhere. You splash water on your face because you don’t want to be awake but you can’t go back to bed because if you turn back now you won’t turn back—

And if you turn back now you’ll sink six feet further—

But you don’t know and how could you. The engine is just running water and you’re going nowhere. The train doesn’t exist and you couldn’t find the girl in any other face no matter how hard you tried. She is stuck beneath the surface of everyone’s.

Caitriona McIntyre