A short story by Elisabeth Zguta
A breeze whipped across the empty street causing the noise and clatter of paper and debris, as it hit the sidewalk’s edge, following its wake. I felt the briskness of the wind hit my cheeks, and I knew from the stinging that my face was red from the weather. I was standing at the curb, under the roof of the trolley stop platform. I reached up and pulled my hat tighter trying to stay warm and crushed my long curled strands in the process. I needed to catch the trolley to cross town and had been standing here waiting for the next train. Minutes went by as I leveraged my weight from one foot to another, and kicked my tall leather boots together as I tried to keep the chill out of my bones. Then I heard the ting ting of the trolley. The wheels rubbed against the iron rails and the rolling rumble sounded soothing to my ears. A deep vibration was felt by my cold feet as the old vintage trolley stopped in front of me.
The trolley screeched to a halt and I stepped up, holding onto the brass railing for balance. The dollar I had been tightly holding in my hand was fed into the meter and I watched as it crunched the money into the slot. The wooden slatted seats were mostly empty, so I maneuvered up to the front and sat behind the driver. He was dressed in a dark blue uniform and matching jacket, and he spilled over the confines of his seat. He wore a hat like security men wear, and then I noticed his eyes and his face which was lit up like stars, reflecting light on his sweating brow. There was one other man already seated up front. He was young, his dark hair slicked back away from his face, and then curled at the ends. The style exposed his sculpted facial features. He was handsome, with a darker skin tone and a pleasant shade of hazel eyes. His face was cordial and smiling. He wore casual clothes, not expensive but trendy. A camera hung around his neck by a thick leather strap, and he bobbed his head from side to side, watching the street as if looking for something.
The trolley moved forward and we both jerked a little as the tugging of the motor hedged forward. Ting ting, again the bell was heard as the trolley passed through perpendicular streets and warned the pedestrians. The windows were shut and the inside of the car had welcomed warmth. The young man started to talk with the driver and they chatted about the downtown area. Their conversation was friendly, peppered with distinct drawls and accents of the local area. The driver was a big man, with a very friendly voice, and a content smile rose all the way up to his eyes. He seemed to enjoy talking about the buildings we passed, and I too found myself listening to his guided tour.
Again some more clatter, ting ting, as we crossed another major intersection. Then we changed direction and began to run down tracks leading us towards the city's river front. The driver pointed out rubble of an archaic building, and he told us about how that was the place where slaves used to be sold. A shiver ran down my spine as I thought of all the misery that had inhabited that space. It was like looking at hallows of an old prison, with visions of death and injustice. Now it was just cracked stone, and fallen crumbling walls, a reminder of an evil that once prevailed here. Ting ting, we kept rolling along.
I sat there wondering when the spring would be here. I wanted the empty tree branches to be filled with greenery, enough so the birds were hidden in the bright colored camouflage. I wanted to hear the birds sing songs to each other instead of flocking as a mad group that was migrating. I wanted a southern wind to be warm against my face, and kiss my cheeks with sunshine and color, instead of a stinging frozen bite. I longed for spring, the rebirth of warmth.
The trolley stopped, tinging its bell again. This was my stop. I got up, bent my head towards the men in recognition and left the trolley. Hanging onto the handrail, I stepped down into the bitterness still hanging in the air. Elusive spring, where are you?