I can't tell you what she was doing there, in fact I can't even tell you what I was doing there. All I really can say is that I was there, and so was she. But then what difference did that make?
It was the No Exit Cafe and we were there. Or really, I was there, she was on the train. No no, wait, she wasn't quite on the train yet. She was going to be but when I first saw her she was just on the platform waiting for the train. Across from the No Exit is that big stone embankment and on top of that is the Morse el stop, right? Well, she was there, under the heat lamps.
That's how I first noticed her. Those lamps only stay on for like fifteen seconds and then you have to hit that rubber button to get them going again. Many times I have waited for trains at that stop, freezing my ass off, doing that dance where you peek over the edge down the rail for those round orange headlights until the lamps go off so you hop over to the post to get them going and then back to the edge to crane your neck to see if in the time it took you to go and turn on the heat lamps the train didn't come; and those fucking trains never come. At least not at that time of the night, not at the time of night she was up there.
That's how I first noticed her. The idiots I was sitting with were babbling about the cicadas and how they wouldn't be back for another 17 years. I guess it's sort of interesting to think about, but how many times can you hear it? Everyone in the city was talking about them that day. Cicadas: the natural fad that recycles every 17 years. As I turned away from the talk I saw the flash of light that I thought to be lightning but realized in a second was someone turning on the heat lamp.
Not someone, though--her. She was it.
And I knew it was her right away! Right away man, I was sure of it. Because, first of all, it was summer! It couldn't have been below 90 and she was turning on those damn heat lamps. She was wearing all black too. And you could tell she was a knockout. All that black was clinging to all those curves. She even had short black hair in a bob like the model in the Clothestime commercial. The one that I think about sometimes at night when I can't sleep.
And as I watched her pacing back and forth from the post to the tracks I could hear the faint hum of the cicadas calling to one another. Those cicadas never shut up, at least they didn't that night. Even though I was indoors I could still hear the constant one-note symphony that they had been waiting all their lives to sing.
The night before we had stared at the tree in Linda's front yard. Four of us, my friends from high school who then became my friends from college, stood around the lawn and gazed as millions of brown little cicadas made their way toward the bark of the tree.
I watched as one of the little guys cracked open the brown shell and crawled out. He became this new yellow bug. But he was the same bug, you know. He had gone from a small brown turd to a sharp yellow insect, but he was still the same guy, inside. He still had the same bug fears and bug needs. The only difference was that now he needed to get laid. You could really tell too. It was in the way he uncurled his wings, like a young bachelor calling for a taxi.
It was almost peaceful to see him at this moment. To think he had spent 17 years underground in a coma to prepare for that moment was mind-boggling. I was excited for him, for all of his new possibilities. I wanted to see him find a babe but all he did was sit and flap his wings. Maybe he was waiting for all of his cicada friends who were still brown and buggy. Still, watching such a natural display lifted my spirits. I had been kind of depressed since I had graduated from college.
I mean, it felt good to get that diploma and to finally be done with schooling. I had spent the last 17 years of my life listening to teachers and trying to sit still at a desk. But almost as soon as I had tossed aside that cheap gown my dad was on me saying:
"Don't forget your insurance just ran out, you really have to get a job now."
"And get married too," my mom chimed in. "We want plenty of grandchildren around in our old age." I didn't even have a girlfriend.
After watching the cicadas I wanted to be alone. I wasn't mad at my friends or anything, I just felt like being alone so I could maybe get my head together or, at the very least, think about getting my head together. I drove around for a while and listened to the cicadas calling each other and biding their time till they died.
I finally settled on the No Exit. I hoped there would be a girl there who would also be sitting alone who would maybe be impressed with a guy who had just gotten his degree in liberal education.
As soon as I walked in I knew there wouldn't be. It was the same old scene, the same old faces, the same old talk about the cicadas.
I saw her up on the platform. I wished I was with her, I wished I could be standing up there looking down at all the apartment buildings and the No Exit and the Heartland and seeing all the hippies that have returned from their comas and hearing that song. To be up there with her hearing all the cicadas singing together, all around you, wherever you turned there would be still more cicadas singing to one another in unison.
And the girl in black and I could hear it under the heat lamps together and maybe she would ask me where I was going and I could shrug my shoulders and pull out a cigarette and she would look away and our silence would be filled with that one-note symphony. But before I could even get out of my seat the Howard el pulled into the station and she was gone. All I was left with was an empty station and the chirping cicadas, until the heat lamps shut off.