Newsletter icon by IconGhost of the Noun Project.

Speech bubble and cloud download icons made by Freepik and licensed by CC 3.0 BY

© 2023 by Britt A Willis.

Created with Wix.com

Women characters

 
DANAE (any race, late 20s+)

 

My uh

my father

my father was too much of a coward to kill me

it wasn’t love

it’s not love, 

you see

he doesn’t care if i die

but if it’s by his hands there’s all this

responsibility, this atonement,

these... consequences for his actions.

 

people don’t like it when you murder

your family--

gods either

turns out--

 

but locking your kid away,

separating them from humankind,

generally fucking them up,

that’s

well, that’s just tradition

 

and your

your father

your father isn’t any better

i’m not a coward

i’m not scared of saying it

what can they take away from me

 

but you

 

i mean
maybe i’m not a great parent myself
but so what
 

i think i have the damn right
to be melancholic

sitting here

on the ruins of my former life
 

before you became a hero

before you were born

before my future was stolen

 

this was my story before it was yours,
perseus

SHERRY from Use All Available Doors (black, late 30s+)

 

I've always loved stories. Fairy tales, fables, parables, memories. Probably came from my father. Dad used to wear this sweatshirt that said "Storyteller" and every time he put it on my mom would kiss his cheek and say "you know, most liars don't advertise."

 

Dad said stories were greater than facts.

 

I think everyone who rides Metrorail has a metro story. I've been operating this thing for years and everyone I've met wants to tell me about the time they were on the train and… well… you know. I’ve told you some of them. Maybe one day I could collect them all.

But for now, here's my metro story. And my mother's. The only story I ever heard her tell.

Preparatory pause.

My mother and I'd taken the Red Line into the city to visit my aunt for dinner. She lived near this small church with a grassy playground and while I was there my aunt let me borrow a mason jar to catch fireflies. On the way home I asked my mom why fireflies light up and she told me

"There's a chemical in their bodies that makes them glow. They use it to warn predators and they also glow to attract mates. A male firefly will glow and flit about the air to attract a female firefly below."


So the whole way home I was enamored with these fireflies who kept calling out for other fireflies who weren't even there. The stops went by quickly and suddenly the operator called Silver Spring, end of the line. 

When I was a kid, Silver Spring was the very end of the line...

My mother took a moment to rifle through her bag, looking for a, a, a

wallet or a cough drop or a tissue, I want to remember, I wish I could remember what she searched for but the sparkling lights held my gaze...

and before she could… before she even knew what was happening, I opened the jar and shooed the fireflies into the train car.

The train lights flashed to warn any sleepers and in the dark everything paused as the fireflies lazily waltzed about the car, flickering lights.

Felt like we were in that moment
in the dark
on the train car
forever.

Feels like I'm still there.

I turn to see my mother, desperately trying to fix my disaster, and she holds the stars cupped in the palms of her hands.

 

A beat.

Last stop, Glenmont. This is the end of the line, folks, end of the line. Have a good evening and thank you for riding Metrorail.

SHERRY from Use All Available Doors (black, late 30s+)

 

"THIS TRAIN" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe plays. SHERRY listens for awhile.

 

My mother loved this song. Every Saturday she'd slide Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Precious Memories" out of the protective cover, her fingers only touching the very edges as she deposited it on our record-player. She'd play the album all the way through while cleaning and then take it right back to this song, playing "This Train" at least four times again.

It's a good song. The lyrics aren't true for this train but it's a good song. 

To the train:

And, who knows, maybe you are bound for glory. I don’t get to make those decisions.

I found this record a few days ago. It was in a box sitting on a cabinet filled with school projects and crayon drawings. One of the projects was a family tree, my genealogy.

This is what I know:

My name is Sherry. I began operating trains when I was about 25 years old.

I am the daughter of my mother, a teacher,
who was the daughter of her mother, Phyllis,
a seamstress, the daughter of Grace,
Grace was the daughter of her mother,
we think they lived somewhere near Virginia,
Grace’s mother was the daughter of her mother,
who was the daughter of her mother,
who was the daughter of her mother,
and I'm sure this travels all the way back to Eve, whose lover was Adam.

Centuries of mothers bound for glory and I only have three names. I'm probably lucky to have this much.

I keep… I keep hoping,
if I can connect to these stories,
to these people I don’t know,
to these ancestors who branch back to the furthest beginnings of our species, to the first cell, to the stretching of the universe...
if I can find a way to connect with these women who passed before I was even born maybe I can still…maybe I can...connect...

 

Silence… Sherry tries the eulogy again.

I’m Sherry and, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m the daughter of… Who wouldn’t know me? Who would be at my own mother’s--this is terrible. 

Dupont Circle, doors opening on the right. This is the Red Line train to Glenmont, next station Farragut North.
 

SHERRY from Use All Available Doors (black, late 30s+)

 

How do you… How do you move on without what’s left behind? 

Not the things you choose to leave behind, not the broken chair you put on the curb, the itchy sweater you give to a cousin, the ex you leave in Baltimore, the job you want to quit. 

More like… like the great purse you left on the MARC before switching to the Red Line on your way home and you’re near New York Ave before you even realize, it’s too late, that train is gone, you’re never getting that purse back, and worse yet it’s out of style, they don’t even sell your favorite purse anymore. 

Like that.
Something like that.

Sometimes it feels like if...if I cling to every memory, if I replay them over and over, if I just pay close enough attention, nothing will be left behind.

I think about the constant smile in the corner of my mother’s mouth, the time I laughed so hard rice came out of my nose, the feeling of fingers brushing against the back of my neck, the sound of aluminum cans bouncing away from the tips of my toes, the texture of the wool coat my father brought back from war...

This is Union Station, connections to AMTRAC, MARC, and VRE. Doors open on the left. Red Line train to Glenmont, next station Noma-Gallaudet U.

 

HISTORIAN from Use All Available Doors (any race, born in 1976)

 

I was born the same year as the WMATA's Metrorail. The first time I can remember riding I must've been seven or eight? It was my aunt's funeral. I didn't know her well; I didn't know any of them well and I really didn't care. My mother had made me a new dress, a dress so dark and fluttery I felt like a galactic princess boarding a space shuttle... We were riding in from Maryland all the way to Farragut North and just past Metro Center our train stopped deep in the tunnel, shuddering a bit from the brake...It was so dark I couldn't even see the tunnel walls. They might not have existed, it was so empty. We were abandoned in the far reaches of the galaxy and to be honest I don't know what happened next I could've lived the last thirty something years stuck in this same train car aging as slowly as the stars.

SISTER from This Vessel Is A Fragile Thing (any race, early 20s-30s)

 

Hey, are you in there?
Hun?

…hun?

Can you even remember me?
Do you know where you are?
Do you know where you really are?


You’ve created an interesting world here.
Not as happy as I would’ve expected.
But maybe this is the best you could come up with?
A place where you can finally cloud over, escape from us all, find your version of peace.


You know, I pegged you as a quiet forest person,
but I guess dystopian sci-fi works, too.


You have to wake up, hun.
It’s not perfect,
it’s not easy,
it’s not fair,
it’s rarely enjoyable,
but here, this place is just an escape, a fantasy
twisted to keep you from the real problems,

your real questions. In here there is just you,
refusing to look out.


I know. Maybe,
maybe it doesn’t feel perfect in here
because the body is still fighting,
still out there waiting,
waiting for you and your mind,

wanting to know what your choice is,
content with anything if you’d just wake up and face it.

 

It’s easier not facing it, it’s unfair that you have to.
But those real world problems, 

and your internal ones,
won’t just disappear. They won’t stop just because you’re in this fog.
And the longer you’re in here,
the more you’re hurting yourself and others out there.
Leaving this dream will take strength and power.
There will be fear and suffering from within you
and from the world around you.
I know it’s painful 

but

let’s not escape.
Let’s not run away.
Let’s face everything 

together.