The mouse was the size of my thumb. It appeared as a Southward dart while I faced West, toward the San Carlos suburbs. A fast little dust ball. I looked in the general direction and considered that it was nothing. Some figment.
I’d gone too far South on one train and waited for another that would carry me North to Belmont. No book to read. Late summer dusklight behind the clouds. I don’t know what was in my head then, though it was something. I know it because I was pacing and wild-eyed. Searching everywhere. It was standing around at the station that had me noticing things, like that mouse.
It appeared again a few minutes before my train and paused in the open space between rain gutter grates. Right in front of a stucco wall. No discernible movement. Little brown shape, a furry lump.
“Howdy,” I said. I stood several feet away, in front of a bench. One of those wrought iron and wood slat deals.
The little mouse remained in place. I sat down and turned away when it seemed appropriate. I smiled at my absurdity.
I listened for the track rattle and hiss of an oncoming train. My ear has to point toward a thing if I expect to hear it. It means turning away to look at roofs and hills, missing everything in front of me. There was no hint of a train.
The little mouse sidled up while I listened. It was there on the concrete a couple of feet from the bench when I stopped listening for the train that wouldn’t come.
“Hello,” said the mouse.
We waited minutes and I wasn’t sure that I’d heard anything. Nobody uses that word anymore.
I was scared, so I began to hum. Something sad to bring that up to the surface. I hoped my clever sadness would scare away the mouse without the need for shoos and foot stamping.
Instead, the mouse crept closer, and it sat beside me on the wood slats. Its little ears moved. They were dangly flaps of skin and fur about the size of pupils.
“Are we going to sit here?” it asked.
“Your train’s going to be here in no time.”
I looked at the station LED sign. My train to Belmont was 5 minutes late.
“Just a few more minutes.”
We remained quiet for a while. I scanned the roofs ahead, looking for crows. They were usually good for some head tracking, though not that evening. They tend to cluster around acorns in late summer.
“I think this is a rare opportunity for you,” said the mouse. I finally turned toward it. It must have been a baby, small as it was. I couldn’t possibly take it seriously.
“I made a mistake,” I said. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
The mouse brought its front paws together and rubbed its nose. “You are missing out on something that may never come again. I’m a thing far different from you, and you have nothing to discuss? You greeted me after all.”
“Impulse, that’s all.” Then I hummed the sad song again and waited.
The mouse looked ahead, as I did. “I’ll leave you to it,” said the mouse. It stepped back toward the grate on the North side of the platform. It blinked into one of the small holes. Back into its hole.
The train arrived. I was at my destination in two minutes.
Weeks later, I searched for a particular taco truck on the streets of Oakland. I skulked along an empty street and encountered a huge rat crossing from one sidewalk to the other. No Hello, no acknowledgement whatsoever.