On my first day of work, I am giddy. I rock from the balls of my feet to my heels and back countless times, unable to stand still. I have recently graduated and I am entering the work force in my field. I have, as they say, made it. There is a man at the train depot, he is probably twenty years my senior, somewhere in his mid forties. He is dressed in a three piece suit that was exquisitely tailored to his broad frame. He is broad of shoulder, and his chest swells before connecting to a narrow waist and hips. I had the distinct sense that he either had been or still was an athlete. He watched me. I watched him. We watched each other watching each other.
“First day?” he asks me, finally. A sparkle to his eye that tells me he’s barely containing a laugh.
“Yes.” I bristle. What right does this man, this perfect stranger, have to laugh at me?
“I was you once,” he says. “So eager and full of inspiration. Ready to take over the world.”
“And you aren’t now?”
“Well, I suppose I am still ready to take over the world. But I am not quite so eager to do it now. World domination takes time, you know.”
And then the train arrives. He steps into one door, and I into another.
And so it goes each morning, five days a week, for the next twenty-five years.
He will ask me, eyes twinkling, if I have conquered the world. I will tell him “not yet”, and ask him the same. He will shake his head, chuckle, and tell me that I will be the first to know if he does. I watch his hair go grey at the temples, lending him a distinguished air that I am sure will help him in his lofty endeavor of world domination. Then I watch as that grey multiplies, until there is more salt in his pepper. He softens around the middle, and loses a little of his imposing stature. But now he is wizened, someone who has lived a good and prosperous life. This, I think, will make him more trustworthy. And certainly, any day now, someone will simply hand him the keys to the world.
It is December and bitterly cold. I yank the lapels of my wool coat higher, in a sorry attempt to protect my ears from the harsh wind. I stand in this cold environment, waiting for this man with whom I have formed the strangest bond. But the train arrives, and he is not here. I step onto the train and stand, holding a rubber strap, staring at the platform, willing the man to come hustling forward with a tremendous story about why he is late. But the train door slides closed with a startling finality.
I look around me, at the many faces ruddy with the cold. People buried in their book, or tuning out the world with their headphones shoved into their ears. And I think to myself that my friend, my train station companion of the past twenty-five years, must not have achieved his goal of world domination. Because he is not here, and no one else seems to even notice. The world is moving forward, just in the same way it has every morning. Except it’s not the same. Not for me. This is a world I cannot conquer. I stand on this train, staring unseeing out the window as the landscape passes me by and silently weep.