IT BREATHED AND HOWLED, letting out its whistle like some heaving iron monster. The train was almost invisible in the fog and floated eerily amid the sprinklings of urban light in the pre-dawn black.
It was a halting sound. I paused, straddling my bicycle, to wipe my dewy glasses before continuing my ride to work. The world was an opaque mess of white, and with such limited visibility I only hoped I wouldn’t slam into a parked car – let alone a moving one.
The diner’s familiar odor of grease and coffee brought no comfort; the decision to take off my coat and begin the routine of washing dishes and wiping tables was a capitulation, a subtle defeat. I made no small talk with customers, and responded to theirs with evasive laughter. I was glad to be back in Madison, but tired of doing this – unable to kick the day job, floating in a freelancer’s purgatory.
Several times throughout my shift I stepped outside with my mug of coffee to marvel at the fog, at the way it draped itself over the city’s features, leaving plenty of space for the imagination to breathe. And then came the tug, the inevitable wondering of what lay down the road and beyond sight.
I came home reeking of sweat, bleach and grease – my fiancee gave me a quick kiss before telling me I needed a shower. I set down my bag and took a moment to look at the map hanging on our wall, at the red thread strung roundabout over the Pacific connecting Madison and Seoul. My sore legs felt the tension of the ends trying to meet.