four-twenty-seven train from o’hare international airport to west chicago. he clutches a bouquet of pink tulips—her favorite flowers—tightly. the blue polyester seat across from him is taken up by his leather suitcase, containing only a black suit and a few pairs of socks. two months ago, she sat in that seat, smiling, gazing out the window, breathing. he sees her ghost when he squeezes his eyes shut real tight. hears her favorite song echo in the back of his brain. he remembers holding her in his hands when she was first born—delicate, beautiful, small. she had her mother’s face: green eyes, a heart-shaped chin, the best baby smile he had ever seen. he watched her grow up—learn how to read and write, try out for the school play, take her first driving lesson, get her heart broken. sometimes he thinks of the way his life could have been different. send her off to college. walk her down the aisle. meet his grandchildren for the first time. take his last breath with her hand in his.
he squeezes his eyes closed until it feels like his pupils might explode. it’s worth it, to see a glimpse of her, sitting on that ragged blue polyester seat, smiling, talking, laughing.