Carrie was never very good at being ‘in the moment.’ In fact, she was nearly always stuck in another time, another conversation, another place. She wished very much for one of the birds from Aldous Huxley’s novel that would constantly remind her to pay attention to the “here and now, here and now.”
The train whistle transported her. Carrie had been watching the wild grasses switch in the stiff breeze and reliving the joyfulness of watching her young children play with the dog in the pasture. The whistle took her back to a place and time she had never experienced, but that felt no less real.
The heat of a still summer afternoon was oppressive and the household chores would have to wait. Snapping green beans in the shade of the front porch and listening to Mood Indigo crackle over the radio from the parlor, Carrie heard the whistle as the train approached her backwater town. The children always ran past her house on their way to meet it at the station – they imagined that one day someone famous might step off that train and they didn’t want to miss it. The farrier down the street could be heard cursing the horse he was working on – the fool never got a horse to cooperate with him, he was such an unpleasant person the horses could smell his ill humor a mile away.
The cat jumped in Carrie’s lap and startled her out of the reverie. The suddenness left her slightly disoriented, as if peering out of someone else’s eyeglasses. What was it that made that particular daydream so real? She was imagining a time long before she was even born, but it felt like it might have been last week. Was it just because times are hard for so many these days, as it was then? Was it that her grandmother’s stories had been so skillfully woven that she envisioned the era as her own memory, rather than someone else’s? Or perhaps Carrie longed for a time in which (she believed) people had a better sense of community and camaraderie, and spent less time arguing politics and religion, and posting trollish comments on the internet.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there is a cat in Carrie’s lap, and its head needs petting. Here and now, here and now.