on a train

I feel trapped and surrounded yet disconnected and aimless. Like I’m on a railroad going nowhere, alone in a train car full of people. Backpacks packed with stuff that I can’t access or use. People I know but not people I can talk to. The view outside is a blur but somehow it’s also blurry in here too. I took my glasses off, I don’t wear glasses. The train engines are hard at work and my legs are tired from constant running. I remember getting on this train but I didn’t choose to. I could get off if I wanted, but have no power to stop it.

I move to the conductor’s car but all I find is a mirror and a note that says “don’t touch” written in familiar handwriting. I look around for something to touch but only my face is visible, hollow eyes staring at a point behind my shoulder. I reach out for the glass, cold and contoured under my fingertips. Sliding into the canyon below my chin the train lurches and I grab the collarbone with a death grip, a parent as their child learns to drive. We’re falling and my stomach rushes up my throat. It bursts from the lips of the reflection, rests unmoving on the floor. I stare at it. I return to my seat.

Hard orange plastic sticks to the back of my thighs as I rest my head against the window. The man behind me starts to breath audibly, panting, hot air filling up the car. The others join, their humid breath fogs the windows, condensation drips into my eyes. It slides down my cheeks. Into my mouth. It’s salty and sweet. It burns like acid and as I stick my tongue out I see holes forming, blackened at the edges.

I rub my forearm on the window to clear a portion and look out. Electrical wires run parallel to our movement, pen lines running smoothly over an impressionist painting. They buzz and spark. The holes in my tongue start to ache. I close my eyes and go to sleep. 

I dream of a restaurant I went to once in the city. The waiter is an ex-lover dressed in black. She sets a pitcher full of ice on the table. There is no water. When the food comes it is piled high on platters—fresh, colorful, appetizing. I know that my fingers, if I reach out, will pass right through every morsel so I lean my face down, like those cows I saw at the edge of a river on vacation. About to take a bite I glimpse the flutter of a bird wing from the corner of my eye. Turning my head I realize the table next to me is occupied by two ravens, tearing into a carcass. I look back at my food, beautiful and alluring. Silverware glints beside my plate. I reach out and the metal sears my skin, pain radiates up my arm, frying every nerve, and wraps around my heart. I wake up screaming.

I’ve been here for weeks now, huddled in a luggage compartment. An announcement came over the loud speaker, mentioning tickets, and I knew I needed to hide. Yesterday a child came looking for their backpack. Her eyes slid past mine easily as she pulled out a yellow bag covered in black birds. I couldn’t help but wonder if that bag had, shoved into its lining, memories of a life before this one.

on a train

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