Leaving, short fiction by Kathy Prokhovnik

There’s no-one else waiting at the railway station. Just me on the bench in the humid night, and some small black beetles that thud into the station windows. Fluorescent lights suck the colour from the empty platform. A bell rings intermittently down the line, like the bell at a railway crossing, except there is no railway crossing. Here, you drive over the line on a bridge, then make a sharp turn left to the station. 

A dog barks. There are cones of light under the streetlights on the town side of the tracks. It’s like a painting of a small country town with all the elements in place. I have a burst of nostalgia for the passing of summer. I don’t even like summer, but now I remember summer nights as times of freedom and energy, of joy at the end of a hot day. I remember summer nights when we sat on the verandah, listening to the frogs.

The train bursts around the corner and catches me up. I’m propelled through the countryside, a tube of dull light whisking past dark paddocks and small glimmers in distant windows. Travellers from further up the line drowse, their legs obstructing the corridor. At Central we’re cast out, sleepy, clutching pillows. 

The night is thick and heavy, the air full of smoke from fires that ring the city – burning off on the hottest April day in history. 

I catch a train to Newtown where a busker sings deep and smooth in the shadow of the station.

A homeless woman sits hunched on the steps of the church, looking out into the uncertainty of the night. 

A young teenager talks into her phone, her voice rising indignantly. ‘It’s not! It’s not late.’

Women in a bar laugh and throw their heads back, their long bare legs stretched out and their arms filling the space as the music pumps louder. 

Even though the thick air catches in my throat and sits in my lungs, I linger on that greasy street, the cars heaving by, and breathe in the smoke and exhaust fumes and feel the night heavy on my arms, and look at the people who stroll and rush and stagger and I enjoy feeling the flow of life in all its hurry and purpose. All held together by the warm, sticky air, the darkness that isn’t quite dark, in the thick pulsing night. 

Fiction-Kathy-Prokhovnik.

Kathy’s day job is editing and technical writing, but she also has a novel in the bottom drawer and a narrative non-fiction social history of Sydney emerging. She lives between Sydney and her farm at Gloucester. She blogs at http://kathyprokhovnik.com/ about the highs and lows of gardening.

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