Late Night on the BART Platform

Shari ran up the escalator to the platform, only to find the doors closing on the next BART train into the city. Frustrated, she let out an audible breath between her clenched teeth as she watched the train gliding forward, out of the station. The train’s distinctive whirr increased in pitch, and then decreased in volume while it sailed into the distance, vanishing in the darkness.

It had been the last direct train of the night, and now she’d have to wait another fifteen minutes—actually, twenty according to the marquee—for the next Berryessa-bound train, from which she’d have to transfer at Macarthur station to get onto a train taking her home.  She was indignant. She didn’t want to be stuck out here in the East Bay, much less El Cerrito, any longer. 

The platform was quiet. At this hour there would be very few people heading southbound—most of the commuters were coming from San Francisco or Oakland or Berkeley and heading home.  In fact, other than the hunched figure seated far up the platform maybe the length of four or five cars away, Shari was alone in her wait. Biting her lip, she looked up at the marquee again.  Sixteen minutes.

She looked up the platform again, and seeing the hunched figure, frozen in place and still a safe distance away, she pulled out her iPhone. Unlocking it with her thumb, she opened her messages. Her eyes alighted on the top one, seeing again the first few words of the false promise that brought her so far from the city, she shook her head, then she swiped up until Pace’s name appeared in the message list. 

“Can u meet at Mission and 16th in about 45 min?” she typed and sent. The tiny word “Delivered” appeared immediately. She briefly wondered if she’d given them enough time to meet her, considered following up with another message, then decided against it. If she was late she would follow up with a text. She stared at the message with intent, silently willing it to change to “Read”.

When the screen went dim she was shaken from the spell, and she put the phone away. Pace was probably in the kitchen, and didn’t have hands for the phone at that moment. Or in the laundry room. Because they usually responded to Shari right away, and something must be occupying them at that moment.  Shari would hear a ping from their message soon enough.

The marquee read eleven minutes.  The hunched figure had still not moved.  The computer voice of the intercom system, which she’d relegated to background noise until then, declared, “Richmond train, now approaching, platform B.” On the opposite track, a train slid into the station, the whirring sound as it approached forming the opposite tones as the earlier departing train. Its doors opened and through its windows Shari watched it empty the lion’s share of its commuters onto the opposite platform. As it pulled away from the platform, she watched the people funneling on to the escalator or pouring down the stairs until the last commuter on the platform slipped into the elevator and disappeared. 

She looked up at the marquee again.  Eight minutes.  She pulled her phone out and checked the message.  Still “Delivered”.  She looked down the platform and found that the hunched figure had vanished. Her eyes darted to every shadow, every hiding place on the platform as she felt a wave of dread wash over her. Where had they gone?

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