Grand Central Station
The train station is filled with people. My older brother Luke, donned in his Marines uniform, pushes through the crowd, holding my hand tightly as he weaves through the sea of people. He was supposed to have seen his commanding officer about an hour ago, but he said I needed to be on a train before he could leave me and since his commanding officer is our father, he knew that this was the best thing to do to keep me safe and that dad would understand if he doesn’t report right away.
Just hours ago, a nationwide state of emergency was announced, talking urgently about a virus outbreak across the country and into some parts of Mexico and Canada. Airports and marinas have been shut down to help prevent the spread of the disease. The news anchor said that the early symptoms of this virus are vomiting blood and migraines. No one’s died of the disease, at least not yet. The woman said that the safest quarantine in the country was out in California.
Luke and I were standing in line for about forty-five minutes, waiting our turn to get a train ticket to Cali. Everyone has been murmuring and crying about the quarantine and the virus while my brother just stands in silent grieving that he and I are to be separated for a while and I’ll be on my own.
Luke and I are standing in line to board one of the trains heading west. Soldiers are stationed at train doors, handing out surgical masks to everyone. The soldiers themselves wear the masks. An older woman holding the hand of a little girl who looks to be about five or six years old approach the man. The girl starts to cry at the sight of the soldier. He crouches down, out of my line of sight. I get on my toes and crane my neck around the line of people to see what he’s doing.
He moved his mask down below his chin and is smiling at the girl. It looks like he’s telling her what the mask is for in a soft tone. The little girl begins to calm down and he takes a small bundle of tissues from his pocket and hands them to her, telling her that everything will be okay. She nods and takes the mask and tissues from him. The woman tells him thank you and they board the train. The soldier stands up, puts his mask back on and continues his job.
Finally, Luke and I approach the man. From his uniform, it looks like he’s in the National Guard. His name patch says ‘THIBAULT’ in neatly stitched lettering. He and Luke nod to each other.
“I’m not boarding, I’m just making sure she gets on safely,” Luke tells him. Thibault locks his green eyes on my hazel ones and hands both of us masks and tells him to make it quick. Luke says thank you and he walks with me onto the train. We find a single open seat towards the back. Still holding my hand, he rushes to the seat and sits me down. He crouches in front of me and puts the mask’s strings behind my ears and covers my mouth. Tears are welling up in his light brown eyes.
“I promise, we won’t be apart for long,” he says quietly. “I’ll find a way to get the three of us
back together. I know that dad won’t want you gone for long without us.”
“Where is he?” I ask, my breath making the inside of the mask warm.
“He’s in D.C. right now, he’s okay. I’ll let him know you’re safe,” he says, tucking a lock of dark hair behind my ear. He kisses me on the forehead and says a silent goodbye. Tears start falling down my cheeks. I quickly stand and hug him tightly.
“Take care of dad, okay? Promise me you’ll look out for each other,” I choke out. He hugs me back even tighter.
“I swear, Van.” He lets go and makes his way off of the train and back onto the platform. I watch him through the window. When he finally finds me, he gives a small smile and waves. I pull down my mask and mouth I love you.
A few men, slightly larger in size than Luke, come up behind him and take him down, pinning his arms behind his back and pressing his face into the ground. The train starts to move. I begin screaming and hitting the window, telling them to let him go, that he didn’t do anything wrong. Just before Luke and the other soldiers vanish from sight, I see a man in a captain’s uniform come up with his hands behind his back, looking down at my brother in disappointment. All I can think is, That’s not my father.