The International Writers Magazine: Fiction

Train Confessions
Jeannie Mark

hyllis loved the rumble of the train. The stream of lights that would flicker on, and then off as it pulled into each station. Sometimes the platform was a mist of confusing fog dribbling into her bones. Other times it would be crystal clear to her. Pointedly clear. The blue canvas of the sky would penetrate her eyes so harshly that she had to turn away.

Each time the train barreled through a tunnel she could see her heart hanging on a meat hook dripping with wanting. Emitting a faint glow like a lighthouse on the edge of the sea. She always fell into a dreamy state. She nicknamed the train "worm".

One day she pushed down all the sounds and looked up. Studied the faces of the crowd in the car. A blonde rager with hissing dreadlocks scowled, her thin mouth quivering along with the piercing through her bottom lip. Snarling at the world, at herself. A bold ring of amber jutted from her papery fingers. A tall black man with the dignity of an elegant giraffe, supported by a cane carved from cedar. His long frame draped in a weighty wool coat. Waves of defeat crashed against his skin, beating it down to smooth. The jowly face of a middle-aged woman, hair the shade of dull straw casting grayness on her skin. Startled blue eyes rounded like radishes blurred into murky defeat. Phyllis gasped, realizing it was her reflection. Slapped back to herself, she pieced together her parts, the reflective glass winking at her in sarcasm. Puffy bags of flesh followed the end of her nose as she crossed her eyes downward. Just her cheeks mocking back. Sausage appendages – arms, calves, thighs, hands straining against the cheap cotton of her maroon coat. She rubbed her black nylon bag against her leg to distract herself, the friction working in a static frenzy with her nylons. She veered her gaze from the window, focusing elsewhere. A perspiring pregnant woman sat beside her rubbing the roundness of her belly. Chunks of greasy hair covered her face. Dark eyes peeked through simmering with rage. They darted to and fro with no target in mind. She muttered in a low bitter tone about bullshit and unfairness. Phyllis thought of the baby growing inside the resentful woman. She once read about the pulse of life. How before we are conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother’s ovaries. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month fetus in the womb of her mother. This jolted Phyllis into an internal hush. It made her wonder about the historical thread of human consciousness that connects us all, throughout time and cultures. Could we all be one blood of the same mother?

She left her body and floated above the passengers as some nudged or elbowed their way into slots. Creating spaces between folds of skin or swaths of fabric. All of them unconnected but squeezed into this car at once – at this moment. Phyllis wanted to hug them all. Facilitate a group cry. She heard of cuddling parties; the new hipster fad of wearing pajamas and toting pillows as props for creating intimacy. She could imagine the isolationists lying in the middle of the floor grabbing hold of a perfect stranger. Pressing body against body, melting into each other like warmed marshmallows. Urban gooey love.
She enjoyed standing at the hot point, where the cars connected to each other. She shut her eyes and leaned into the flexible rubber that mimicked an accordion. The bottom would revolve under her feet while the walls came alive, expanding and contracting. She breathed alongside it, wishing the train would keep her safe. Cradled inside the synthetic womb. After getting off, she always felt disoriented and off balance, reeking of old tires. Yet a steady calm carried her home.

One morning the platform groaned with the weight of hundreds of people huddled together waiting. There was a delay. Loudspeakers above hissed and crackled as Train Control tried to soothe the growing crowd. All Phyllis could make out was static and the phrase, "thank you for your patience". She could plainly see that none of these people were feeling patient. Elbows turned into jabbing mechanisms, eyes into sharp slits and bodies into blockades. A burning smell filled her nostrils. The fever of mob mentality. Her hands twitched in the valley of her pockets. The contagious urge to push, claw or smash worked its way into her fingertips. She wanted to see arms and hands upwards into driving forces of hate, blood pouring from mouths and eyes erupting into bruised slits. The itch seized her. She dug her hands into her pockets, grasping her house keys. Slow motion particles landed on her skin as she slipped her apartment key between index and middle finger. Pointed weapon ready. Suddenly she was there. Goddess of the 8 a.m. rush hour. Daggers of hate pinned Phyllis frozen in the finale of a knife throwing act, insides wrenching at the sight of the woman. She watched her with white hot focus, how she stood out amongst the drab commuters. Her long legs caressed the line of her pencil skirt, rose tipped breasts filled out her blouse in perfect peaks, while her cascading red curls caught bits of the sun. Spreading her beauty into the air, leaving Phyllis choking with envy.

Phyllis fazed all noise out. Feeling like a punched rag doll she began to stagger towards cheerleader. Redhead was close to the yellow line. The one mentioned in all the news stories. Another jumper, whispers of suicide. The "do not cross the yellow line" sign momentarily distracted her. She wondered what reporters would call her, Phyllis the Pusher? Then she would be noticed. Hated or loved; didn’t matter.
Like a game of disordered chess, she moved in a pinball pattern, zig-zagging to strategically place herself in a ripe position. Mere inches now, pincers of red sharpened Phyllis’ intention. She knew the next sequence - jab the key deep into her back, redhead would shriek but not one soul around would notice. All of them distracted in their own muck. Faces buried in newspapers. Headphones turned full volume. Sunglasses hiding their disinterest. Phyllis could almost smell the lavender in her curls, tickling her nose into a sneeze. Then Phyllis would push with her might, pour all her energy into the slabs of her fat hands until redhead fell.

A breeze lifted Phyllis’ hair, blinking her to awareness. A whoosh of the worm flying in. Strands flickered against her face, angering her more. She raked furiously, leaving fresh nail marks. The after wind rattled her contact lenses into a blurred whirl. The worm’s doors slid open, hoards of humans poured out walking around her large frame, some charging into her, never uttering I’m sorry or excuse me. People slid into the edges of available space, pushing their way in front of her to get inside. She lost her target, a glimpse of red hair fading into links of arms and torsos. Redhead was gone. A weed of frustration brushed her, but soon evaporated. As though signalled by a school bell, Phyllis’ eyes went blank. Time to go; no time to ponder. She began to move along with the crowd wedging herself between a window and a pole. The odd person glared at her largeness hogging space in the car. Smells invaded her. The spicy tones of musky aftershave. Stale toothpaste exhaled onto her cheek. Swirls of lush perfume tinkling with girlish laughter. Stinging mint gum gaping from a mouth. The warmth of bodies pressing against her. She shut her eyes, waiting for the next station. The day was just beginning.
© Jeannie Mark October 2006
invisiblegirl at

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