Destination Anywhere

Train station 1Norah told James she had a surprise for him.

“Meet me at the Amtrak station at noon. I’ll be wearing my red raincoat with the hood.”

Maybe people were staring at her because she was wearing the hood inside but she wished they’d stop. She had no time to fix her unruly red hair that morning. Hiding it under the hood seemed like a good idea. They were talking about her too. Did they think she couldn’t hear them? Norah sat in the waiting room on one of those uncomfortable linked armchairs. They took out the couches and put those in to make sure no one could lie down and sleep if they were stuck for hours when their train was late. She was wearing old jeans and her favorite t-shirt under the coat. The t-shirt had a photo of Marvin Gaye sitting on the floor with his arms crossed over his knees. He was wearing a red wool cap and he was smiling right at you. The photo was taken from his feet so his giant platform boots were in your face. (I heard it through the grapevine. Not much longer would you be mine. Now I’m just about to lose my mind. Honey, honey, yeah.) 1

Norah set her small black carry-on the seat next to hers as soon as the woman who was sitting there got up to go to the bathroom. She unzipped it. The suitcase was heavy due to the fact that there weren’t too many clothes in it. She just packed the important things, like the stuffed dog she got in her Easter basket when she was three. Everyone in her family told her it was a bunny but from the moment she laid eyes on the green furry creature, she knew it was a puppy. There wasn’t much fur left on it from being petted so much and the ears were crooked, having fallen off and been sewn back on several times. Norah grabbed the puppy by the neck, walked across the room and tossed it in the trash can. (I’m just about – at the end of my rope. But I can’t stop trying – I can’t give up hope. ‘Cause I feel that one day, I’ll hold you near. Whisper I still love you. Until that day is here – I’m crying. Ooo baby baby. Ooo baby baby.) 2

Norah returned to her seat. James was probably packing his mismatched socks and crappy t-shirts right now, all excited about his big surprise. This station was so noisy even though it was half empty. Too many conversations going on at once. Why couldn’t these people just shut up and wait? (All we need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere. There’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and records playin.’ And dancin’ in the streets. ) 3

Norah rooted around in her suitcase. Her Motown CDs were in there. Otis. Smokey, Marvin. Martha. The Four Tops. And the Queen of Soul, Aretha. She had packed the jewelry box she made with her dad when she was ten. He showed her how to cut the wood and glue the pieces together and even apply the shellac, right before he walked out the back door and shot himself in the head. (I ain’t no psychiatrist, I ain’t no doctor with degrees. It don’t take too much high IQ’s to see what you’re doing to me. You better think (think) think about what you’re trying to do to me. Yeah, think (think, think), let your mind go, let yourself be free.)

An announcement came over the loudspeaker. “Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone. Please adjust your watches accordingly.” She checked her watch. It was a quarter to twelve. Where was James?   Norah pulled a strand of hair from under her hood, stuck it in her mouth and started to chew4

Norah had only one ticket in her bag. James would probably cry like a big baby when she told him she was leaving him. But she was doing him a favor. She was an idiot. What did he see in her anyway? (Said to the man at the railroad station, “I want a ticket, just for one.” He said, “Well, if you insist. Where you wanna go, Miss?” Oh, destination anywhere. East or west, I don’t care. You see my baby don’t love me no more. This old world ain’t got no back door.)5

Soundtrack to Norah’s Mind – Credits:

1) I Heard It Through the Grapevine: written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, recorded                by Marvin Gaye      and others

2) Ooo Baby Baby: written by Smokey Robinson, recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and others

3) Dancing in the Streets: written by William Stevenson and Marvin Gaye, recorded by Martha and the                 Vandellas and others

4) Think: written by Aretha Franklin and Ted White, recorded by Aretha Franklin

5) Destination Anywhere : written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, recorded by The Commitments and        others

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