Wait for me

Train arrival

In that bleak and chilly autumn morning hundreds of people were waiting for the train, nervously shifting from foot to foot, their shoes heavy with sticky mud. Here and there women opened their crippled, tattered umbrellas in a poor attempt to keep the rain away from their sad heads and ugly hats. Children wept pulling their mothers’ sleeves and nagging: when, when? Old men, their beards yellowed by acrid smoke, stood aside from women and children and chewed nervously on their nasty hand made cigarettes…

The sky, as greyish white as watered down milk, sprayed the crowd with this sort of drizzling rain that turns excitement into apathy as quickly as it turns road dust into mud.

The train had been already two hours late. The very train that was to bring their boys and men home. The war was over. Everyone knew life must get better from now on, yet no one in this crowd was smiling anymore.

In the middle of the heavy silence a group of women quietly exchanged a few words. They asked who’s waiting for whom and shown each other yellowed photographs where faces of their beloved always remained as young and tender and full of life as spring flowers.

“And who are you waiting for?” One of them asked of a sad old man with a face wrinkled far beyond his age and eyes as red and swollen as if he’d been crying for hours.
“My daughter,” he answered briefly.

The women fell silent at once, just like little kids hushed by an adult. Now they were waiting for her as well, a curiosity, a living miracle: the woman that fought in a war. And wondered: what was she like?

“You know, this man is waiting for his daughter,” a hushed whisper crawled through the crowd, waking it up, drawing people together, their apathy shaken off, their hearts filling with hope again. Perplexed, intrigued, curious, women with ugly hats and tattered umbrellas and men, their cigarettes forgotten, now waited for her as well...

The silence exploded in a wild roar as a shrill sound of the train whistle reached the station coming from beyond the thick mass of the forest, colored red and orange by the young autumn. The train was coming! The crowd went crazy, wheeping, crying, shouting, moving all together like a wriggling, insane alien creature.

There’s a song: “Wait for me and I’ll come back if your faith is strong enough…” Oh, these people did wait! Religiously, feverishly, with clenched teeth, with bitter tears, through endless nights and days. After all this, their loved ones must return. It can’t be otherwise!

There’s a belief, a very old and strong one, that if there is somebody waiting for you at home, every minute, every second, with all their heart, miracles happen: bullets cannot touch you, landmines go silent under your feet, rescuers come to your aid, wounds heal... Everything! If only someone loves you enough and stays vigilant all the time, to the end.

So they all did. They waited for their boys and men… and for her. They waited for her too…

The train, a long and greasy metallic snake, had stopped, hissing. There were curious eyes and faces of passengers behind the grilled windows, unrecognizable through the dirty glass. A magnified voice boomed over the station, announcing: “Zelenoozersk! Move out!”

Of course, just wait a little, they will come, they will descend the stairs, their dear soldiers. Sons and fathers, husbands and fiancees, brothers and friends… And the girl, the one who fought in the war.

A door opened in the third carriage. A short girl jumped down to the ground. She looked like a boy with her messy hair cut very short, streaked with early silver. She lost her left eye and wore a patch now. Her left hand was in a sling. The crowd watched, bewitched, mesmerised, noticing every detail, up to the patches on her hat’s flappy ears… freckles on her face… the beginnings of a faint smile on her scarred lips...

The girl’s father ran to her with a happy cry and gave her a hug. They were so look alike, father and daughter. Same nose, same heartily broad grin…

The train started and left the station. No one else had come off it. Just her.

“Where are our boys?” Somebody whispered as if slowly awakening from a dream. “We’ve been waiting for them so hard…”

(March, 27, 2003)

Jump to another story: