Cumulo // fiction

First published with MiPOesias and available here in print //

She sat her bum down next to him; clad in black as the hanging nimbus overlooking their train, but not as wet. As she had waited for the sliding door to allow her through, her innocent face staid and glum, he eyed her slyly with suspicion, but without really looking, and resisting the urge to put his face directly onto hers. So with her now next to him and alien, he merely fidgeted, not knowing where now to position his arms, or how to hold the nothing in his hands, himself feeling quite the gangly-armed intruder. Either way and oblivious to his concerns, she did not notice, she only sat there and that was all.

His elbow against the prickly fabric of the upholstery, he wanted to ask of her: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ but something stopped them, the words, so that they wouldn’t come out. His tongue and teeth; a knotted ball of worms in saliva.

He wanted to say: ‘There are plenty of other seats free,’ but he couldn’t, his lips stuck together, ‘why have you gone for this one?’ He would have continued with her, much along these lines. And it was true, only a handful of seats were taken.

There were other things he thought he could have asked, thought he could have said, something witty perhaps, but he was too shy to accidentally come across like an oaf, and nothing naturally appropriate came to mind. Plus the seconds passed, so that any word now would seem out of place and jarring, like her sitting next to him. (He would not have done that to a stranger. Even on a busy train he would have opted for a seat on the floor or standing room by the doors.) Plus he didn’t actually mind her and her black jeans next to him, only that she might look at him and think him an imbecile or worse (to him), unattractive, neither of which could be quickly forgiven being the odd one on the train, such as he was. Plus he could have been both, anyway, an imbecile and ugly. Plus he had a lump in his throat; the worms climbing back down.

All of these pluses somehow equated to his minus.

There were small noises like hiccups as he almost began sentences aimed at her and her seeming social disobedience. This was a tad embarrassing. Sitting in the seat across would have been fine, he might even have liked that, thinking that she wanted to sit near him but was too shy, so kept only at a comfortable distance where she could observe him with furtive glances when she thought he wasn’t looking. That would be sweet of her. He would have done the same with her. But no, the hiccupping.

Her head was dipping a little low toward her chest, but she looked unemotional. They both rocked together with the train’s movement. This, he liked. But part of him was offended; she had not greeted him or begged the seat of him. This made the double-joints in his fingers harden. She had blonde hair. She had blue eyes. Both of these facts, he thought, could have been the reason for her behaviour, or the reason for the knots in his fists.

He looked out the window and pretended to forget, playing it casual, as if women often sat down next to him seemingly out of choice. But the white sunlight blinded him so he could not even look that way easily.

He heard shifting beside him. She repositioned herself in a more comfortable pose, relaxing her head back against the hollow of the seat, her blonde hair acting as good protection from the intrusive short-hairs that needled his elbows.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the train is not a metaphor, for life or for anything. For this was a train that stopped, in many obscure places he would never alight at. But life stops, yes, true, in all manner of locations, for each and for all. And one day, of course, in the ultimate sense. But that cannot be assured, so no, the train could not be a metaphor. He wondered what she thought of the train as a metaphor. Perhaps she agreed with him. Perhaps he would bore her to unemotional tears. He did not know, perhaps never would. Perhaps he should ask. Or perhaps metaphors were odious. He had a desire to take something by the throat and throttle it.

Instead, he admired her pretty blonde cranium in his periphery. Not the actual cranium, though the thought had occurred to him, as it seemed to be a beautiful one. But it was not the cranium that did it for him. It was all the things on it, along it and inside it, the things that were rattling with the train, rattling like his.

Then he was looking straight at her, as if goading her into a reaction; she did not react. The neck on her seemed appealing, but he was not the outwardly violent sort, just the inwardly variety.

‘Should I scare her off by touching her arm, or her leg?’ he thought. ‘But then she might call the inspector, or the police, or my friends, or my mother, or for help. All of which would be bad. Particularly combined, which might happen.’ He reasoned with his opposing selves and resolved not to touch her.

As she relaxed, it seemed she might speak, but part of him did not want her explanation. But he waited, his eyes on her, looking at her lightly curled hands, her simple nails and fine clothing. All of which amounted to momentary perfection. It was true; he was attracted to her. How does one show affection for a stranger, he pondered. The train slowed.

A light panic that manifested in a slight contraction somewhere below his heart made him blurt thoughts on the page in his mind: Would she get off his train, which was life? No, the train was not his life. He would simply get off at his destination and that was that, it would continue. So then the platform might be his life then, would it? People waiting, people boarding, people smoking. No, that was not his life either. Then the road? The road was his life, wasn’t it? Couldn’t it be? People walking, people fighting, people playing, people laughing. No, the road would not be his life either. His apartment? No, the apartment wasn’t it. His life was his life and his life was this. That was all. There was no need for analogy, tedious observation, uncalled-for metaphor.

She visibly sank into her seat, the cushions somehow sighing under her unsubstantial weight, with her magnetism soaking him.

Now he was in the realm of fantasy. How he would enjoy undressing her, dropping her delightful, well-fitted clothes to the floor in the apartment of his life (he could not resist, though knew it wrong), laying her down on his bed, running his hands over her cranium. Filling her with the sound of his horn. (He could not play an instrument. Particularly brass, because he could not shape his mouth that way. It was often said of him that he had zero lips.)

The train went slowly around a bend, around the Sun, until it lit her up, lit his vision too, covering it all a sudden white.

Then the voice, like a whisper: ‘Would you take me home, please?’

He could not believe his ears. No. It was his ears that could not believe him. He was making it up now. And he had gone off on one.

‘Yes, of course I can.’ He said out loud. The heads in the handful of seats turned on their necks, but not at him, at something outside the train. ‘Where do you live? Do you live around here?’ He thought the heads were looking at him, and her, but he ignored them, sensing victory.

The light that was blinding him illuminated to a plain salty sheen.

‘I live near…’ The voice trailed off.

‘Where?’ He hadn’t heard the final word.

In the actual train, the train that was real, the train that was life for many people, she was getting up and walking down the aisle. She carried slow, heavy footsteps, an individual march like that of a passing cloud, which seemed to mean something, but was mostly likely, like all visions, immaterial.

His vision, however, remained whited-out.

She waited for the door to slide her through.

‘Where?’ He said, blinded white. He still did not know she was not there, which was a pity, for him and his future.

‘Where?’ He repeated, sitting on the train that was his life.

Her name was Vera and he had loved her, though oblivious to what that entailed. But she didn’t know it either, that he had wanted her, or what the word entails, as she got off the train that was not his life, and onto the platform that was not his life, into the road that was also not his life, finally into her home that was not his either, but hers. And her life alone, disappearing and precipitate.

The Free Dictionary: Grado máximo al que puede llegar algo que se expresa: el premio le llegó para colmo de su felicidad.

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