South Shore Line
by K. Miller
Three years before my first period.
The one I tried to bury deep in the hamper under dirty rompers and leggings. The one I thought was a punishment from God for thinking impure thoughts while watching the Cubs sweep the Dodgers. The one that taught me pain is a cycle set to repeat.
I spy my target.
A boy, slouched six rows away, the whitest person I ever saw, his transparent jaw drowning green and blue rivers. An airy construction of blond hair and blue eyes, he could float away any second, deflate at just a touch.
I peek into the aisle, catch his eye, dive back against frayed polyester. He mimics me, and we vary the tease, my family oblivious to the foreplay I engage in, the lust in my heart, the flutter in my belly as I ride out the track’s every twist and turn, rattling vibrations sparking steel.
When the ride ends I follow my mother down the aisle, nearing my playmate. Just as I’m about to throw him a dazzling smile – an invitation: “come and get me, big boy,” a declaration: “you’re the one” – he falls into perspective, shadows lift, cloudy eyes clear.
And they zoom in on one prominent feature: a synthetic mold resting in and curving around his small, drooping, apparently useless ear.
One word sparks a cancer behind my right eye.
I look away, ashamed by his disability. Ashamed by his deception, tricking me into thinking he was a normal boy.
A normal boy who could whisper unintelligence into my perfectly capable ears. A normal boy whose hot puffs of breath could penetrate my canal, sentiments beating the drum, stroking ecstasy.
Without a glance in his direction, I exit – angry he lied to me though no words were exchanged. Behind me the train rests, spent.
Years later, I recognize his beauty, horrified at who I was.
Years later, I write a poem dedicated to him, wondering where he is now, whether or not he remembers me, the girl from the train who [insert wounding metaphor here].
Years later, I wonder if I’m even a distant memory, if his left ear perhaps holds a grudge against that girl – that bitch in the black and white polka dot dress from that rundown train years ago in the windy city.
That girl who is not this one.
Years later, I still think of him. How important he’s been, when he can have no idea.
Years later, I watch Citizen Kane in the shadows of the back row, wide-eyed. He is my girl with the white parasol. He is my one moment.
Years later, I again ride a train, again with family, again travelling to Chicago, when I’m again struck. She is the first woman I’ve ever been attracted to – picking through lo mein, tapping her foot to a jam, all too ready to block any unwanted touch with strong hands and hard stares.
I wonder if this means something important. I conclude trains are my aphrodisiac – shame I’ve only been on three times.
Though, to be fair, I’ve never gotten off.
About the author
K. Miller has a PhD in English Studies, lives in the Midwest, is currently learning Italian, and still can’t believe the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.
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Image: David Mark – Pixabay