She took the train today. She stood quietly on the platform while the rain fell. She listened intently to the storm’s frenetic cement drum beat. She tapped her fingers to a slower rhythm. The rhythm of anticipation. The rhythm of anxiety. She had a date with a journalist named Floyd. They were to meet outside the Milk Bar where, sadly, no milk was ever served. A White Russian was as close as you could get. But it was too balmy for a White Russian, too gray. Something sad hung over the city; a torn dust-caked tapestry; a tattered childhood blanket; an executioner’s mask.
Outside the train window, the land unraveled like an old rug; moss, streams, and trees gave way to cement, gutters, and buildings of all shapes and sizes; the sky stayed the same, with the exception of the pillowy fog descending over Golden Gate Park.
Anna sat in her seat, reading a book of poetry (your leaving uprooted me, mother… I yearned to sing the true song of the earth… The town was forlorn, dust, and depression…); her thoughts kept drifting; her fingers twisting and fidgeting some piece of lint in her pocket; her hands were always busy; they had minds of their own; it was her way of keeping tethered to the real world; a totem; a spinning top; a little gray ball of lint that once belonged to a pair of dirty jeans and now resided in Anna’s coat pocket. She thought of the Shaman; wondered how he was. She found herself thinking of him a lot lately, dreaming of him even. And she didn’t doubt he was dreaming of her. It’s not good, she’d think, for a shaman to be alone like he is. In fact she’d venture to say it wasn’t good for anyone at all to be alone like that; alone with no one but that dirty little hamster, and too many pies for one person to eat.
She thought of Kansas City; it was afternoon there; her mom would be at work right now; her sister asleep as she often was. She loved her sister. But didn’t get the chance to say it very much. She was always moving; always caught in some perpetual wheel of motion. And her sister always missed her when she was gone, but neither could spend more than an hour in the same room as the other without getting at least mildly irritated by some minor idiosyncrasy. So Anna expressed her love from afar, from trains, and planes, in the middle of forests, standing on dirty street corners, whispering to her beloved sister, I miss you and hope you’re well. I’m sorry I can’t be there. And yet she lamented the Shaman’s isolation, classified it differently. At least I would go back. There is no ‘back’ for him. Only ash and soot in his wake, the death cries of a burned up village, the memories of slaughter and capture, the worst horrors humans could and did commit against one another. It was a sad world he left behind, she’d give him that; it was understandable what he did; maybe even necessary. How were whips and chains any different than a crucifix? How many passions was he supposed to endure before he’d simply had enough? And then the train stopped near Ashbury. Mind the gap, said a British woman. Her thoughts turned to Floyd, his green eyes, his innumerable curiosities. If ever there was a person so perfect for their profession it was Floyd, a journalist through and through. Little did she know that for Floyd Hamlin, this was not an average date; in fact he harboured no romantic or otherwise lustful desires for Anna. There was no time for that; a veil would be lifting soon, he was sure of it, and Anna whether she knew it or not was going to help him score courtside seats to the whole show.