The shimmying back and forth of separate strands tug each other from side to side. I’m swallowed by the chaotic gap splitting before and after. A silver handle offers me the next car. Caught in the pressures of a routine day, I reach for it, but hesitate.
When I was a good little girl–pretending to be a boy as good little girls like me are wont to do–I stepped into the next car for fear of social standing.
“Only freaks stay in the middle,” my father warned me. Back then I followed his steps with obedient feet. But now I linger.
Why should I leave this transitory crawl space? What would I gain? My instincts pull me down a different track. I rushed to California, but upon arrival I dug in the dirt far from gold. I scrounge for roots. Those dainty ladies and boys sit in their cushioned seats and watch the sun rise, gloved fingers pressed to their lips in embarrassment. They are faceless silhouettes to me. I watch their world through a tiny window. Those carpeted dining cars with thick curtains and tiny portions? They’re not meant for me. Those dapper smooth-skinned faces with impeccable makeup? Those matching hats on tiny heads? They would destroy me as a cat eats the runt of her litter. I am not of the same species.
I’d rather live in my little cave, anyway. There is magic here.
Slits of light flash through the floor in morse code. Secrets escape through the dividing line like saplings in sidewalk cracks. Their blinking eyes gaze up my skirt in wonder. I find supports in the bending frame, my delicate fingers dirtied with oil. I curl around handholds intentional and improvised. I find delight in the nooks others pass without thought. My ear settles on the ribbed membrane walls. I listen to stories about the creatures who live beneath this monstrous construct. The noise changes as I pay closer attention. The arrhythmic heart of the train beats through this tiny chamber; its strained jerking back and forth reminds me of a lover losing control as I struggle to stand erect inside her.
The door to my cave flies open and a couple passes through, their arms linked. Our bodies can’t help but brush together, though their eyes never meet mine. The couple locks arms tighter as if anticipating danger. They progress into the land of the bourgeois, slamming the door behind them. A word, faintly whispered, lingers in my ear: Freak.
Alone and again at peace, my thighs press against a lever I didn’t notice before. My curiosity aroused, I grip her length and pull. Suddenly a metallic rumble vibrates through us. The heart explodes.
Space cuts in two.
That silver handle speeds ahead of me without regret. I watch first class slam into the side of the mountain ahead, sheltered and unaware, while I fly face to the wind, eyes open, a mighty steel tail whipping behind me.