Epilogue, by Ben

      You sit through classes at the local school, staring out of windows in stuffy classrooms. Large, square rooms, voices chanting in unison, plastic textbooks that sprawl from one end of the plastic tables to the other. Colorful pencil-boxes and packed school lunches.    You move away to the city in spring, as high school comes to a close and you leave, excited for the televised promises of urban life. You mix with thousands of similarly excited youths, sparking with the energy coursing through the Internet age. Your rented apartment is never empty of guests, with whom you smoke furtively out of windows, watching the birds come and go. You pick up jazz, playing regularly with a small band of friends. You laze about the school grounds, dance in nightclubs, fall into love.    You graduate brimming with promise, applying to a dozen government jobs, most of which reject you. You persevere, and find a comfortable desk job downtown. You work day and night, coming home just before midnight to eat freeze-dried TV dinners. She leaves you. You watch as promotion passes you by, once, twice. Then, you’re promoted, into a different job, doing different tasks, none of which you can really recall. This continues for many years, much of which you do remember, but only in glorious bursts of colors, in the laughter of your friends, in the crinkle of her eyes.    You dream at nights of being a hero, but some days you’d settle for just being a decent human being. You walk through life in a daze, letting time flow by without really noticing it. You get promoted again, into a job with an even longer title. You’re tired, but you push past it. You grow stronger everyday, as you sing songs to yourself. You string your latest apartment with trinkets of memory, and soon you have boxes of stuff piled along the walls.    An opportunity comes up. A teaching position in the university back near your hometown. You walk about the city for a few days, pondering your future. You make your decision buying ice cream besides a bridge, listening to cars roar past. You go home.    It’s hard to deal with the quiet of the countryside at first. You long for the white noise that had enveloped your life for so long, but eventually, you learn to wean yourself off it, as if it were any other drug. You travel to work everyday by train. On the walk to the station, you’d stare at the cherry trees, drawing memories of your childhood, of you napping beneath their wide canopies on the way to class.    The station seems old now that you’ve tasted the city. You like its oldness; it’s somehow comforting. When you close your eyes, you can hear the distant trains, rushing about their tracks, roaring and bellowing towards the vast, open sky. Deep down, past the sounds of chatter and the buzz of cars, you hear the rushing of your blood, mixing with the passing trains, blurring into a river of light.