memoir: the second to last train home
They are on a train to her house. She and her boyfriend. The second to last train home. They are alone in the vestibule and she is pressed up against the glass partition between the seats and the doors, and her boyfriend has opened her shirt and has his hand in her bra. Don’t, she says, stretching the word into two syllables with an inflection on the first to show she means it and she pushes his hand away and leans forward, looking up the staircase to check there are no other passengers in the carriage. But his hand is back. Keeps coming back. And then he’s leaning his mouth down towards her breast and she’s pushing him away but he’s stronger and she owes him this, doesn’t she? These strange things that boyfriends want? Because it’s a forty-minute train ride from his house to hers and he always waits while she calls her parents from the phone booth on the platform. And while they wait for someone to pick her up the return train leaves without him and he must wait thirty minutes for the last train home. It’s almost midnight and twice before he has fallen asleep and missed his stop and had to sleep on a bench at Lidcombe station until the trains restarted at 4am. So she must do these things. Mustn’t she? As much as she hates it. The sight of his big spiky head where she thinks only a small downy baby’s should ever be. The tugging. The pulling at the tiny loose threads deep inside her, so that she must focus on one thing, some small detailed thing — counting the rivets around the door, the words on the emergency exit poster — so as not to completely unravel. And how later, even after her body is returned to her, she will still feel naked, despite her clothes, and she will cross her arms over her chest and press them tight against her shirt so as to feel some type of strength there, in that vulnerable place. Because it feels wrong. So wrong. And now a man is walking down the stairs from the upper carriage and it’s too late to push her boyfriend off. Perhaps the man won’t notice as they are very still, just her sitting and her boyfriend bent over sucking. But the man stares at the top of her boyfriend’s head and then stares directly at her. And there is a moment where she can choose how this plays out. How it will play out between herself and this man — if she will wilt with the shame of it or take him head on — so she stares back at him with her best Yeah?What? face. She hopes he will look away first and she will feel some power in that. But the man looks at her boyfriend’s head again and then back at her. Slowly, deliberately. His eyes drawing the picture for her. Underlining it, highlighting it, like a teacher, a father, with sadness and with disappointment. Do you see yourself? Do you see it now? The doors open and the man steps off the train and they are alone again. She and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend sucking, and she, sitting, her best Yeah?What? eyes fixed on the CityRail network map on the opposite wall. Following the coloured lines as they loop outwards and upwards, to the City, then the Blue Mountains, where a strong breeze or a small leap could carry you right off a peak. Out of this carriage. Out of this body. And scatter you in so many pieces that you no longer have weight, or mass, and could drift on the air currents over the tops of the trees in the valley below.