Interchange

By Michael Xu

“The next train to arrive on Platform 2 goes to Berowra, via Chatswood. First stop…”

It was a strange ritual I did every day on the way back from uni. The ashen, humid gloom of Town Hall always weighed upon me uncomfortably, a heavy blazer on an eight-year-old child. Maybe that was the point.

That’s why I never stayed there for long. I lived in Roseville, one of those suburbs where the train never seemed to stop. It’s almost as if it was far too insignificant and tiny to even be considered by the Waratahs that brushed past in a flurry of aluminium and yellow.

Usually, people who similarly couldn’t stand the claustrophobic tunnels of Town Hall took the train to Chatswood, a considerably more pleasant station, and changed there.

I, however, always got off at Wollstonecraft.

It’s a curious station, this one. There’s a curved platform, banana-shaped, so that you couldn’t see where the front of the platform is if you alighted at the back.

But there was a little park next to Platform 2. A park – no, just a square of grass, really, with shaded patches of yellow and green and brown – that’d seen better days. Amongst it all, there was a swing. Sprinklings of rain hit the chain with a soft glistening, as if a greeting, and…

And it was spring. With the spring and the bright yellow of the sunlight came a permeating smell of green and strawberry-scented hair, and memories of a childhood counting the days on a pendulum swing beside Wollstonecraft Station. I could smell tree sap – or hair, I wasn’t sure which. But all I could see … well, that was her hair, her smile, her happy squeals while I pretended to be stern with her.

“Careful,” I said, with my typically overprotective grumpiness. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

Her mousey brown hair fluttered, and she shot me an amused smile.

“Mikey. I’ll be fine.”

***

I snapped out of my reverie to notice my train cruising away with a metallic wail.

Not this again,” I muttered, realising that there was a 15 minute wait ahead, my third in a week.

I was here to hunt for something. No, I can be clearer than that. I was here to see her. I just wanted to know how she was doing, pointless as that may be, to meet again in person rather than flicking through Facebook images and old messages, trying to rekindle a friendship that was just a bunch of bittersweet memories flooded beyond repair.

The weathered wood of the swing hung motionless from its kinked chains. It had been a seat of a fantasy princess and her prince once, but now it was simply another dilapidated memory amongst a collection. The chains hung motionless on the tubular, ivy entwined framework, orange spots of rust peppering them. The smooth wooden seat I remembered was now rough, split and warped, with a pool of water resting on top. Faded red paint peeled off in curls. It swung gently in the breeze, creaking, remembering a moment long ago, with two children now grown up.

The grass beneath waited to catch a girl who had flung herself from the swing at the apex of its arc. I walked towards it with a stutter, and shook the seat so the raindrops splattered onto my shoes. The chains soaked the cuffs of my sweatshirt. I sat down and gripped them, allowing my body to rest backwards, my polished blacks lifting as I swung. I couldn’t make my mind up about the smell the chains imprinted onto my palms and fingers. It was somewhat comforting, like a childhood memory, but also unbearable, much like – much like she was. That day…

***

“No, it’s not that you have a problem with, chica. You’re just being you again.”

“No, it isn’t.”

I looked at her worriedly, trying to make eye contact, but my quizzical glance met only the side of her face. I stopped the swing’s momentum with my arm and crouched, clutching her knees. She turned her face towards the station.

“Chica?”

“I’m just not feeling it.”

“What?”

“I’m just not feeling it.”

“Rightio…”

“I’m not sure how I can break it to you.”

I let go of her knees and backed away. A few steps, and I sat down by our typical position on the greener grass, waved at her and motioned for her to lie on my lap, as she was wont to do.

She didn’t move.

“I’m not really feeling – well, I’m not really feeling our relationship.”

“Sorry, what?”

“I’ve – I’ve found someone else. It’s no offence to you. I just – I can’t really help it.”

***

She went home by bus from anywhere, so I don’t know why I thought I’d ever catch sight of her here. It’s the definition of insanity, I’m pretty sure: when you know something won’t work, but you keep trying. And every single day, I got off at the back of the curved platform and went to the swing. Somehow, I believed (hoped – they’re both the same thing to me) that she’d remember times gone by and visit the swing. It’s fate, surely. Maybe we’d make up. Either way, I knew that, until I saw her, Ineeded to keep coming back.

Today, though, I found someone else. I saw the blonde hair first, a kind of blonde unavoidably associated with adjectives such as “dumb.” She kept walking towards me, expectantly, almost as if she was waiting for me to do something. She stopped and looked around.

“Uh, oh sorry, d-d-do you want the swing?”

“If that’s ok,” she muttered.

I slid off, dug my toes in too hard and tripped. She chuckled, the ice – and perhaps my toe – broken.

“So, uh, what’s your name?”

“Evie,” she said, hesitantly.

“Mikey.” I held out my hand and she shook it.

We walked and chatted a little about some superficial stuff – what unis we were at, the degrees we did (mine psychology, hers chemistry). For the next twenty minutes (was it more?) we simply talked like any two people would after first meeting. Once you get over “stranger danger”, girls are rather easy to talk to, I find.

Evie had a way of thinking I found interesting. She had a twinkle in her eye, a movement in her feet that I felt like I’d never be able to cope with.

For now, I had a request I wanted her to grant. I interrupted a lull in conversation, as a train rattled its way past.

“Evie?”

“Mikey?”

“Do you want to go back to the swing again?”

“Careful,” she muttered, with some grumpiness. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

I shot her an amused smile.

“Evie. I’ll be fine.”

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