I grew up with the conviction that nothing’s real what you cannot experience.
But is it always real, what we experience?
I can’t exactly remember how nor when, but I remember I found myself in a train station, in that moment, standing on a platform.
There were four platforms, each of them served for two tracks. The track on my left was unnumbered.
My look wandered in that direction, towards the opposite platform, and posed on a white-dressed man, leaning on one of the pillars holding the canopy. He nodded at me, in greeting. I didn’t answer.
Maybe because I was distracted and disturbed by the persisting screeching of an arriving train.
It was not a passenger train, but looked like a goods train. In that moment, with no good reason whatsoever, I thought it had to be a cattle train. It stopped (followed by a deafening noise) exactly on the unnumbered track, covering the white-dressed man and the entire opposite platform from my view.
As it braked, I couldn’t resist from getting nearer. Something in that train woke my ruthless curiosity.
One of the huge wagons, which appeared to be hermetically closed from the outside, got opened from the inside, as if it was a passenger wagon. The white-dressed man came out of it, flawlessly.
He came to me, smiling.
“Were you waiting for me?” He held out his hand.
“I don’t know you” I hesitated from holding his hand. When I finally did it, I noticed his skin was extremely smooth. Nearly slimy, but in a pleasant way.
“Everyone, does wait for me. It’s just a matter of becoming aware of it, sooner or later.” He smiled at me again.
My uneasiness was evident. So evident that he said: “I see. Keep this. Call me whenever you want. There’s all the time in the world.”
He put a piece of paper in my hand, with a telephone number written on it.
The next day, I went back to the station. Same time, same platform. I expected everything would have repeated the same way.
The goods train passed, but I didn’t met the white-dressed man.
Back home, I dialed the number that was given to me.
After two or three rings someone got the horn, but silence was all I could hear from the receiver.
I waited a few seconds. “Who’s there?” was everything I managed to utter.
“No one” – answered my interlocutor – “may I help you?”
With gooseflesh, I abruptly took down the horn.
The next day, and the ones after that, I noticed way more people at the station. An ever growing crowd, so much that I could barely distinguish a single face in it. I glimpsed a white dress, and I started running after it.
It was him, it MUST have been him, I had no doubt. I couldn’t reach him.
Recklessly, I ran back home and looked for that number again as I arrived. Then I stared at it, as if it was hiding some sort of message between those ciphers.
I called again. The hospital’s switchboard answered, this time. I reflected, quickly, then asked for the obituary.
“Obituary here, may I help you?”
“I wanted to verify the actual demise of a dear colleague of mine.” And I said my name.
“I go check.”
I hung up before any answer was given to me .
-Marco Guerra Avitabile
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