Eb White Essay

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A Walk Back through Choice
“Excuse me – excuse me, ma’am? Can I help you?”
The asker is a young girl – the freckles on her delicate hands standing out starkly as she clutches the umbrella desperately in an effort to ward of the needles of rain driving hard into the dark, slick pavement of the train station. As I watch, a bead of water drips down the curve of the black hood of her raincoat and lands directly on the center of her nose. Miraculously, it retains its shape, resting there like a perfect dome of reflected light. She wipes it away impatiently, unconscious of the precious gift she has just destroyed. “Ma’am?” Out of the myriad of details I can recall from that wet and dismal November day much like this one, the face of the old woman shines the brightest. Everything fades into insignificance as her features, with their tired folds lying loosely, almost resignedly upon the framework of her skull, superimpose themselves onto each facet of my memory. The trains came through the station less often back then, and it was important to arrive early to allow for any possibility that the timetables were inaccurate or that the train had come in early. The sun had not yet risen and the gray fog of the morning had a sense of anticipation not yet realized. Steam hung thick in the air (for in those days electric trains had not yet been invented) and people rushed to and fro, their faces barely discernible beneath the thick wool scarves protecting their mouths and noses from the bite of coming winter in the air. The teeming mass of humanity in the train station was from all four corners of the city – it came closer to being its own isolated metropolis than any other public locale. All ethnic groups, all social standings, all stages of life converged together into a single solid mass of unrelenting diversity, and rarely did a single individual stand out distinctly from others around him. In this chaos I sat in my customary position, on the third park bench from...
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