Monday Stories

New Fiction Every Monday

To: The Lady on the Train

The light rail is just appearing over the horizon when a car pulls up to the station. You get out of the passenger side, dressed in a tight green skirt and black sleeveless top. Your long, dark hair and huge, 1980’s style smoked sunglasses obscure most of your face. I don’t pay you much attention, because I am busy trying to make up something poetic about the train being like a dragon, except people get mad when this dragon doesn’t eat them. Yeah, it’s not very good. I’ve been working on it for months and it’s probably not ever going to be any good.

“Excuse me, can you help me? I’ve never ridden the train before…” you say. In your heels you are almost as tall as I am, which is rare; I’m 6’3”.

“Oh, um, yeah, of course. What do you need?”

“How do you, you know, pay and stuff?”

So I show you where to buy a ticket and a route map. “Where are you going?”
You name a building that I wasn’t going to admit to not knowing, but I guess (rightly) that your stop would be the first one downtown. You move your head and suddenly, now that I am paying attention, I notice the huge patch of road rash on your shoulder, and matching scrapes on your arm and leg.

The train pulls into our station and I sit down. There being nobody else around, you come and sit across from me. Forgive me, but this moment I start writing this story in my head.

“I do love him,” you say.

“Jackpot,” I think. “Who is that?” I say.

“My boyfriend. He’s why I’m dressed like this. He got arrested. A police dog bit his leg. We were in St. George. He’s got a court day today, but he’s got a gnarly judge.”

“I see,” I lie.

“I’m wearing his grandmother’s crosses,” you say, holding up the necklaces in question. “And his dad is the one who dropped me off here at the station. They’re really great. Maybe, if he doesn’t go to jail, we can convince him to start coming to church. I mean, he’s a good guy…” you trail off.

“They’re very nice crosses,” I say.

“What do you do?” You ask.

“I’m a programmer. I work for the University.”

“That’s nice. I don’t know anything about computers. If….If I wanted to entirely erase my boyfriend’s computer…could I do that?”

“Yeah, most computers have an easy way to do a factory reset—“

“Oh, yeah, a factory reset. That way I wouldn’t have to see what he’s got on there.” You said, laughing a little. I nod. “That way I can use it for school.” You say.

“Oh, what are you studying?” I ask.

“Chemistry. It’s really interesting.”

“Oh, cool,” I say, “my wife graduated with a double major in Chemistry and Wildlife Biology.”

“Wow, I’d like to meet her,” you say, and laugh. “You could introduce me. ‘This is Amy, I met her on TRAX. She’s got that road rash, but she’s harmless’, you could say” you laugh, and now I know your name, and you still don’t know mine.
“He gave me this road rash, but it was my fault,” you say. “No it wasn’t,” I think. But before I can say anything you continue.
“I was on the back of his bullet bike. He tapped my hand, which means hold on tight, but I thought he just meant because we were going to get on the freeway. But he did a wheelie on the freeway on ramp. I mean, I should have known, with extra weight on the back of the bike, wheelies are really easy and fun.”

“Throw the book at him, judge,” I think. “That sounds terrible, “ I manage to say before you continue.

“Yeah, I bounced on my…A-S-S,” you whisper, apparently thinking I’ll be offended if you actually say the word. “Then I landed on this shoulder and my head. I ruined a hundred-fifty dollar helmet.” You say.

”But that’s what they’re for,” I think. “It’s a good thing you had that helmet,” I say. But it’s clear your mind has bounced to a new topic.

“I really do love him. I started learning chemistry for him, actually.”

“Did you.”

“He wanted to import some…stuff. And he wanted me to figure out what it would do. And no wonder it’s dangerous. It’s got bonds that oxidize…” I’ve been married to a chemistry major for fifteen years, but whatever your’e saying is beyond me. But I’m not thinking about that much. What can I say? What I want to do is tell you to run fast and run far. Get away from your drug dealer boyfriend and use that clearly quite excellent mind of yours to make a real, good life for yourself. You seem to sense this, without me saying a word. My poker face must not be that good.

“I do love him,” you say again, and pull your phone out of your purse. “Look at him,” you show me your home screen. A large, hairless, tattooed man is flexing every muscle on his considerable frame and taking a selfie. “Looks strong,” I say. Inane, yes, but it’s clear at this point that as long as my responses are even moderately positive you’re good with them.
“Maybe if he gets five years in prison I’d have time to finish my degree,” you say, almost quietly.

”Throw every book at him, judge,” I think. “That’s a silver lining, I guess,” I say. You nod.

“I mean, I love him, but he makes it hard to study, he’s always running. It’s funny, the cops arrested him for speeding, but not for what he was running from…”

The doors open and another lady sits next to me on the packed train. Apparently she hasn’t done whatever it takes to enter your inner circle of confidants, like me.

For a few moments I’m left to ponder on a the nature of introverts and extroverts. The things you are telling me are things I wouldn’t share with someone until I’ve known them for at least a year. Well, the things you’re sharing with me are so far removed from my middle class life of work and kids and pets and mortgage refinances that I’m vaguely wondering if you’re making it all up, but if you are you’re very committed to the bit.

But to you sharing these things with a stranger on the train whose name you haven’t bothered to ask is as natural as breathing. You are one of those people who thinks the world loves you, and because you are so happy and sharing you are pretty much right. Of course, you also end up trusting people like…him, the muscle bound meathead on your phone.

I’ve judged you too harshly again, because suddenly you tell me, “I’m thirty four. I’m so glad to have him. He’s twenty nine. Maybe someday, if he gets out early, and cleans up, I can have children. Well, one or two, before I’m forty.”

”There it is,” I think. I try to formulate a non-creepy way to say “you don’t need him, you are full of life and you’re clearly intelligent. Find someone who won’t dump you off the back of his crotch rocket,” but you’ve turned to the woman who sat down next to me. She is now apparently also in your inner circle.

“You’re studying law? I’m going to the courthouse, my boyfriend is in jail.”

“Oh, which judge are you in front of?” She asks. Your magic works well. No judgement from this student of the law.

“Katie,” you say, and I can’t help but think that’s an awfully familiar way to speak about a judge.

“Katie…” the pre-lawyer asks, and you give a last name that I don’t quite catch.

“Oh, I love her,” the pre-lawyer says. ”There’s more than one Katie on the bench???” I think.

“I fell off my boyfriend’s bullet bike,” you tell the pre-lawyer.

“Oh my! Poor you. I’m glad you were wearing a helmet,” she says.

And it’s your stop. “Is this me?” You ask. I nod.

“Good luck in court,” Pre-law says.

”Throw the book at him, Katie,” I think.

“Oh, also, I really like your ring!” Says the pre-lawyer.

“Oh, thanks,” you say, and you’re off to sit in court while your boyfriend is brought up before Judge Katie.

1 Comment

  1. What a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing. You hear about these kind of people all the time and yet it is so shocking and disturbing and sad when you actually meet one. You are just left feeling so helpless and all you can leave them with is a prayer.

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