John stepped gingerly onto the gondola. These air trams always made him a little bit nervous, but the scenery couldn't be beaten. He shuffled into a corner seat as the other passengers boarded.
He watched each person, trying to guess which seat they'd take before they took it. John was a pretty good guesser, too. He could get away with this because most people didn't see him watching them. Most people looked right past him; he was just an occupied seat.
John kept watching until one girl stopped in the doorway and looked around the cabin. She saw John staring and he hurriedly looked away. He waited a few seconds and glanced back, where she was still staring at him.
"Which is it, d'ya think?" she said.
"Excuse me?" John said.
"Which seat do you think I'll take?" she said, not breaking eye contact.
"I don't know," John mumbled.
"Ah, and this was an easy one, too," she said without a smile, crossing the tram and kneeling on the seat next to John. She faced the window and gazed out. He watched her.
The tram shuddered forward and emerged from the enclosed boarding platform. Sunlight flooded through the windows, temporarily blinding everyone inside. It began climbing steadily up the mountain slope, flying over the snow-laden trees. Craggy rocks were scattered here and there, streams of melting snow running down them.
John looked at the scene through the window next to him, but couldn't focus. That girl was like a splinter in his mind, unable to be dislodged. He decided to act. He turned back to talk to her and—
She was dancing. Right in front of the seat, right in the gondola. She was swaying erratically, kicking her feet and punching her arms. She didn't even have headphones.
John turned back to the window. What could she be dancing for? What kind of person does that? Well, only one way to find out.
He turned back to her again and said, "Hi, I'm John."
The girl replied, "Hi, I'm dancing."
"Why are you dancing?" asked John.
"Because I'm sad," she replied, bobbing her head harder.
The other people on the gondola gave up their pretense of not eavesdropping and stared at the girl.
"Well, why would you dance when you're sad?" John asked, looking intently at her.
She shrugged, still dancing, and said, "Beats crying."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Why are you sad?"
"Oh, you know, clouds, global warming, man-made, unrepentant evil. That kinda stuff."
"Hmm, that is sad," said John, "but I'm sure things will get better."
The girl stopped dancing and looked straight ahead.
"When?" she asked, eyes wide.
"I don't know," he said, "but I've noticed that things always seem to work out over time. At least, things get tolerable enough to live with, and you take your small victories where you can."
"Like the space race!" she said, getting excited.
"What do you mean?"
"Blasting off, visiting space, finding nothing, leaving a bunch of debris floating in space, only so you can beat the other guy. Mission accomplished, let's go back home, boys. But taking off, thousands of pounds of thrust, arcing into the sky. Now that's something to dream about."
The gondola moved inexorably up the side of the mountain.
"Well," John said, "sometimes dreams can come true."
"You know," the girl said, turning to look at him, "you're right."
She strode over to the opposite side of the cabin, wrenched the door open, and looked back at John, smiling. She turned her back, looked up into the sky, and jumped, spread eagle.
John watched her descent.
cloudy day by annare (source image)
Cable Car by shoofle