Only City part 1: Dawn Arrives

More stories from Melanie Medina - Duque


Simone Cerbolini

Time passes slowly with an impressive speed.

I was never too cautious of my words. You know, the sweet satisfaction of deception and the bitterness that—only after the damage is done—comes as a prompt. Even though my protruding belly is full and warm after a fine supper, sugary plum wine and black licorice, I often wonder how many more things I could have. I wanted everything this world had to offer—even the emptiness that comes from sultry, good-for-nothing man; I wanted it all. 

The bustling district was swarming with the accustomed golden cars that seemed to roar heaps of fine smoke and appeared prosperous under the twinkling city lights overlooking the dim alleyways. Inside were time-poor individuals whose eyes strained to keep up with the tangled letters on their screens. What an object of ridicule.

This—needless to say—was such a wonderful view of the city: the blinking headlights and unquestionably crucified people glued to their own mind games. Underneath all that once was, time intervened in the lives of those who failed in this world, and I will not stoop as low as wetting my shoes with my own tongue.

Treading over crevices and split roads, I let my fingers sway beyond the puddles that held the rain of this night. What a cloying sight. It hadn’t showered in months, and yet, this was the most willing I’d been in a while. Cherry blossoms and precious jewels—I envisioned. There was no mirror—only soiled pools of rain—but I was aware my eyes held a familiar starved gaze for something other than food as I waited for the train that bided my time. I’ve seen it extensively—high and low, far and wide. Nobody was different here; we all have the same desires for something that was outwardly simple. They weren’t cognizant of the consequences and therefore took for granted a singular aspect of life: time.

Nobody was different here; we all have the same desires for something that was outwardly simple. They weren’t cognizant of the consequences and therefore took for granted a singular aspect of life: time.

— Melanie Medina - Duque

Stepping onto the moving cabin felt nostalgic in a way that could not be justified solely with just words. As a child, he counted the days until the district train would arrive once more. He earned his daily bread by pickpocketing strangers and snatching unguarded handbags to purchase food at the nearest bodegamost of it consisted of sugar cookies and small frozen pizzas that he cooked near the fire at his sordid home for a savory supper.

Beneath his feet, the rumbling of engines was prominent, mirroring a deafening growl in the night as the train set off to its terminus. Heavy boots resonated along the carpeted floor; the chime of his dangling cross earrings deemed crucial as it cut through the pregnant silence. He wore a long trench coat, buttons undone, and tattoos littered his lissome fingers. The man’s ill-lit skin burned with a growing intensity, to which he darkened his gaze upon anyone who was bold enough to meet the eyes of those above them.

Residing in the far end corner was a man and his daughter—he was feeding her small portions of thinly-sliced, honey-glazed pears and ricotta cheese from his grim nails that were caked in filth. You could tell the man was not from the higher ups. Amused, he sunk into the neighboring seat, the soft cushion unwinding his pulsing muscles and liberating the tight leash that was now a forgotten migraine. He looked at the man who sported a heavy beard which held the remains of ricotta cheese that clung to his early grey hairs. It seemed he did not have much time to savor. What a foolish man—getting on a train to who-knows-where instead of relishing his last few moments with the child on his lap. Only those with a great deal of time were able to sit back and enjoy a possible three-hour train ride sipping fruity mocktails, sweet-infused Clover Clubs, and warm Irish coffee.

The silent train lulled its passengers into a still sleep. Clouds encased necks like a benign sloth and soothed the tense thew beneath skin of all texture. The train had stopped rumbling about long ago, leaving the man to believe his stop was much closer than he anticipated.

I lit a cigarette and watched it burn. Raising a calloused hand, I crushed it with my palm—what was left of it. I was already on the train, digging into a cinnamon apple muffin that was washed down with sugar toasted rum and reading one of the latest magazines labeled Grey Areas. Pestiferous screeching was no longer heard from the luggage area above as they resonated along the corridors. Several collisions to a cage were piercing the stilled silence that was disturbed only a few moments ago. I could no longer perceive the primitive barking of a small animal in between the isolated clusters of bags in the trunks or the chime of keys against a metal enclosure anymore. Steering my mind from its awful turmoil, I shifted my gaze towards the window and blurred hues outdoors. Untidy heaps of honey locust trees hurried beyond the foggy glass and accompanied red maples and Callery pears, only blending as one as their branches tangled in a feverish hold, clinging to each other like a ring of thumbs and leaves being cradled by the red sun. 

Everything is not black and white. I’m really interested in the gray area—not justifying it, not glorifying it, not condoning it, but at least having people see there’s a genesis for every event in our lives. There’s a divine order to it, whether it’s ugly or beautiful.” 

The train came to an abrupt stop. Subjugated from the impact, the chilled rum stumbled atop the wooden surface, and shards of glass plummeted towards the floor, colliding in a frenzy. The racket of the brakes flourishing outside was enough of a nodulous approach for me to be knowledgeable; the odyssey for my lost time was just beginning, birthing a new dawn, and after a long hiatus, the end of the tunnel will divulge a gateway to a glaring brilliance of light. The mornings to come will not start with my quivering eyes briefly taking a glimpse at the ten hours on my longevous watch.