Chapter 5 -- Welcome Back to 1978

Lucinda CHENG

She hopped into the car and drove north to San Francisco, parked the car at Marriot, put on a mask, and walked passing the financial district. The street is desolate, she was walking in a white linen robe. The atmosphere is somber and surreal, she passed between the 1920 style Art Deco office buildings, like a nun walking on the field after the battle had ended, passing corpses and torn flags.

The street is emptier than before. Homeless lining up the side walks, lying. There used to be more, when she had to lift her foot and walk over them.

There are old syringes on the ground. Not sure if it is for heroin or crack. That was why their users ended up on the street.

San Francisco is so liberal and lenient about it they give away syringes in the pharmacies, so the drug addicts don’t get AIDS. It is worrisome. Where could they be during Covid? The shelter must be packed.

Bart, bart should come on time even without the normal passenger flow. The pigeons were taking over the plaza. All the stores around it were closed. Glanced at the Gatsby styled clock on at the center of the plaza, she quickly went downstairs to the underground. There are eight labels under that clock, stating the distance to reach these eight cities across half of the globe. She remembered seeing Istanbul, Vatican, Kyoto on it. They’ve always been there as a city art.

It was a Sunday, the train approached in time. She counted for the 3rd cart, and walked into the one following it. Nothing particular.

About five man wearing suits and backpacks entered the cart. Powell station is where all the banks are and this is how they dress. One of them moved further down to the next Cart.

One of them sat in the middle row next to the window, one of them sat at two seats behind; The rest scattered near the gate holding onto the handles.

A woman with a baby cart leaning at the pole and smiling at the baby; a young couple sitting across from the man in suit.

After passing the Civic Center, before reaching the 16th Street, the train went into a dark tunnel, and the light went out momentarily.

Rachel was sitting behind the couple since the train started. Now she stood up, and started walking towards Cart 3. At where the two carts connect, she dazed.

An electric shot went to her brain and numbed it. Immediately she turned around and dragged her legs towards Cart 5, where she saw the same scene:

A mom caring for a baby in the cart. Two suited men scattered in the front of the cart; Two suited men sitting in the middle and end section of the cart; And a couple across from them. All the same people.

At that moment, the train is approaching the station. She looked till the end of the train, passing every cart -- it is an infinite repetition.

Withholding tears, she turned around again, and walked to Cart 4, Cart 3.

The moment when she stepped on the connecting section between 4 and 3, a woman in a white linen robe was also walking towards her, passed her.

As she enters where she came from, the train stopped. The train never reached 16 and Mission Street.

First, she heard the church bell. Then she saw the black robed figure holding a candlelight when the door opened.

It stopped at Rome, the Vatican City.

The stone paved maze and clouds in the blue sky reflected in her widely opened eyes. “Follow the Charon.” she recalled.

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