The Willow Creek TriMet station (Portland’s mass transit rail system) has seating scattered across its platform. Made of concrete, the names of literary and religious giants have been engraved into the table, settee and two chairs and that made me wonder what would be overheard if those individuals actually inhabited that space. Their imagined interaction follows…
“How can they ignore us? Don’t they know who we are?” Hawthorne asked the assembled group.
“And only concrete,” Phaedre sniffed contemptuously, “I’ve heard tales of park benches in the city made of marble.”
“The city must be a beautiful place,” Woolf mused, “Everyone passing by us is headed there.”
“Wait, wait!” Austen whispered, “Someone’s coming.”
A young man approached; a student engrossed in whatever his iPod was blaring into his ear. The table and chairs held their breaths as he sat down, unzipped his book bag and pulled out a brown paper bag. Blotches of grease had soaked through and the smell of fast food filled the air. He ate fast, only taking time to look down the tracks for the next train. When lights began to flash he ran across the tracks just in time to squeeze through the Max’s closing door.
He’d left his bag behind.
“Great,” Sartre mumbled from beneath the brown paper bag, “How long is this going to sit on me. “
Chaucer laughed, “Better that than the dog they put on me earlier. You think that food smells bad, try smelling it after it’s been digested.”
Gordmier groaned, “You’re disgusting.”
Mohammed cleared his throat, a gesture that was meant to lend a dramatic air to his words, “Please, please. We must all remain calm. We were placed here by our maker and we will be together for all eternity. So it is written.”
“Are we here? Is our spirit captured within our rough exterior?” Buddha posed the question. “Are not our minds free to be anywhere?”
The other voices chimed in together, “Oh, why don’t you be quiet!”
Walking away from the group a passerby could only remember the quote on the cold, hard bench…”The end was such a surprise…”
Eight centuries into the future, they are still together….
The rain had stopped. After thirty-two days the sun finally appeared. Puddles surrounded the table and chairs, following the cracks in the sidewalks down to the lower levels of the broken pavement. The tracks were rusted over, not having felt the vibrations of a train in centuries. All was quiet, until…
“Geez, I thought it would never stop,” Gordmier complained.
Sartre sneered, “Of course it’s going to stop raining someday. We’ve seen it rain every cold season since we were placed here eight hundred years ago.”
“Yes. Even before the end of people came it rained continually,” Mohammed added.
Moses spoke up, “In my day it rained for forty days and forty nights and it drowned the whole world.”
“We’ve heard that story already, Moses,” Hawthorne interrupted before Moses could continue, “In fact, we heard that story every Spring since we were placed here.”
Woolf sighed, “I miss people.”
They all sighed together.
“There was a certain interesting aspect to them,” Chaucer acknowledged. “They always were good conversation pieces.”
A corner of the table had fallen to the pavement and it was from this broken chunk that Austen spoke, “You all make me sick. Look at you. At least you’re still in one piece. I’m pathetic.”
“We are all as we should be,” Buddha said calmly.