Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Train

There was carpet everywhere. Brownish carpet on the seats, greenish-brownish carpet on the floor, reddish-brownish the back of the seats, and none of it was comfortable. If you grazed up against it or accidentally touched it, you would see that it was thick with spills and dirt and bad breath. And then there was all the luggage. So much luggage that Mike felt like if he didn’t find a seat before the train started moving he’d be stuck in an aisle all the way through the Alps. He’d arrive in Milan, sleeping standing up with pulled muscles and aches that would ruin his entire week off. So he moved fast climbing over through and around bags, spotting one empty seat all the way in the back of the car.

The whistle blew and suddenly everyone shifted themselves. They were just adjusting their asses for the long ride, but Mike couldn’t help but feel that they were all lunging for his seat. He stepped faster; almost jumping, and the train began to move as he leapt for his spot. He landed on it with his knee, the weight of his bag finally getting to him. As he wrenched himself straight in the two and a half feet allotted for him, he saw a smile. A girl’s smile, surrounded by a pale face that was almost American, except for the sleekness of her eyes. Almost Asian. Almost Scandinavian, because they were blue. Almost devastating, Mike thought, as if his life had become a perfume commercial. As Mike stuffed his bag under his seat he saw that the girl was already tucked under a blanket and turned toward where he’d be sitting. On her other side was a tall man in a tall suit. He had such exaggerated facial features that he might have jaws instead of teeth. But he was asleep. So asleep that his eyes looked like two closed drawbridges. It was easy to see why the girl was sloping away from him; his suit was the same color as the carpet on the back of the seat. As Mike settled, he thought, I may be fooling myself but I’m pretty sure she’s pretty happy that she’s going to be leaning towards me for the next five hundred miles.

It became dark fast outside, and the lights inside the train only made it brighter, which made the first dumb question harder, but Mike got it out. Do you speak English? She knew a tiny bit, but Mike could tell she liked listening. And when she asked if he spoke Italiano, which he loved and had been learning more or less all his life, he nodded yes. Then her head passed the armrest and settled against his seat. Inches apart, they whispered every word they knew in Italian until the lights in the train went out and then suddenly she wrapped her blanket around Mike too. The she tucked him in and Mike leaned his head until it was resting on hers. Then he slept. For a minute? For a second? An hour? He wasn’t sure. But he slept until he felt her hands on his chest, under his shirt like that was a simple thing to do in the tiny amount of room they had. Even in the dark, he could see that her eyes were open, reflecting the movement of the world outside. And then on his leg he felt her other hand. Do you want me to touch? Mike asked her in Italiano. And she nodded. She was so small that it was almost impossible to find where her body began under the blanket. But when he did, she breathed out so much that she became even tinier. He wanted to find some flab on her. Some proof that she was human, and even where the small of her back met the seat there was just skin and muscle protecting her bones. Sit back, she said in English right into his ear lobe. And Mike did. She leaned in to his mouth, stopping to investigate his eyes. As she kissed him, the hand on his chest slid down, finding his muscles in his stomach, there were some, then finding the button on his pants, and kept going.

This is amazing, Mike thought and repeated to himself. This is amazing and all I can do is pray that she’s not really a man.


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