Train out of Oakland
recently discharged, after years of taking orders from
high school dropout sergeants & peach-fuzzed lieutenants.
the whole thing was a search&destroy cruise down
Gunpowder road. hard rot-gut in my canteen & an
occasional whore to share it with. I was lucky to get out
alive & only slightly damaged.
after boarding the Chicago-bound train, I stowed my gear &
made for the club car. I spotted her right away, along with
every other G I & snake oil salesman in the car, but the wall
of ice surrounding her kept them at bay. me, I had nothin’ to
lose & nothin’ much worth saying, but I would walk up to her
like a damn fool & say it anyway:
‘I just got out. the Army left me tired & cynical & beat up pretty
good, but if it led me to this spot talkin’ this crap to a woman
that looks exactly like you, then it was worth it. I’ll go quietly
now, I just wanted you to know that.’
her dark hair tumbled in gentle waves over her shoulders, & the
deep maple flames in her eyes held secrets that I would never
know, & a familiar eager passion that maybe I would. she grabbed
my sleeve & said, ‘stick around. you’re not the only cynical loner
on this tin can trolley.’
so we talked & drank for a long while; things that strangers talk
about, without hesitation or good sense, because they are strangers.
when it got late & there was no steward to pour drinks, we went to
the sleeper car, found an empty bunk, & commandeered it.
I touched her warm skin, & felt a desire that I had not encountered
in a long time. maybe never. she responded as if I were no longer a
stranger, or that it didn’t matter.
we held each other as if we were falling away from the world; where
nothing existed except this passion that we were forging. a passion
that could not be spoken, even in the language of a poet. or a
disbelieving soldier. it was a contraband romance that only happens
on a wayward train slicing the silver moonlight.
I slept hard after, right through the next stop. when I awoke, she was
already gone. but the matchbook memory that we made was on the
bunk, like a crumpled love note. I picked it up & stashed it in my pocket.
one day, when I’m defeated & lonely, I’ll pull it out & dream on it…