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Pedro has been on vacation in the US. Like Peter in his story 'The Tourist' he has been indulging his interest in railroads. Also like Peter, he met someone called Lucas: Lucas ........... A boyhood interest the same, In the railroad car you came Sat opposite to share the ride, It was foretold I’d meet your name. Not shy, no wanting face to hide Along the seat made impish slide And ‘til closed on safety grounds Too far through window leaning tried. Delight at all the railroad sounds Your curiosity knows no bounds And as you ate your picnic food Emotion in my heart compounds Because your table manners crude, Which really could be said most rude, Amuse me so that we both smile As I drink my coffee stewed. At times the other watch awhile And find no sign of risk or guile And times we look and watch the view So bond with every passing mile. And then you touch me with your shoe So footsie I would play with you But romance is not the game For you, my friend, are only two. ……………………………………. © copyright pedro October 2018
More Boys on a Train. Terminus by William King “I fucked things up. I know.” It was hard to even look at Alec. So he didn’t. He avoided his gaze. There was a moment of silence. Not real quiet. The murmur of voices and the clickety-click of the train. Those noises were there. In the background. It was crowded. Packed. Like always. “I treated you badly, very badly.” It was almost as if they were in a bubble. Alone together. The rest of the world was a cocoon. Not like before. It crossed his mind that maybe Alec thought he didn’t remember. As if it was nothing to him. An inconsequential incident. He did remember. He remembered it like it was yesterday. Those words came out of his mouth and they were said. Their whole lives had changed that night. The train was just as crowded. Only it was the weekend. Different people. Made no difference. No difference at all. “I was totally insensitive.” He looked around. All he saw were coats and bags, the sides of bodies. Occasional glimpses of the people sitting opposite. The train stopped. The doors opened. More passengers squeezed on. Shuffling, pushing. Arms outstretched, griping the bar. “I've never forgotten saying it.” He still could not bring himself to look at Alec. He sensed the tension. Feelings re-emerged. Threatened to overwhelm him. Like before. He felt he was suffocating. But before it was different. “Those words came out of my mouth and twisted like a knife in the gut.” His eyes were wet now. It was different. This time. Now he didn’t give a damn who was looking. The train shuddered, squeaked. That metallic noise of metal against metal as it rolled around a curve. The crowd shifted and swayed. They stopped. “There's no excuse.” He felt a knot in his stomach. “I can't justify it.” He thought he would heave. He might be physically sick. There was no air. “Saying sorry now is pretty useless.” They jerked forward. The train moved slowly. Relief. Not really. It was the morning after. When he remembered it, he choked. At the time it happened he also choked, but for a different reason. He had thought about it. Many times. But only with himself. Inside his head. Alec was there. Next to him. They were older. “I can tell you that I was paranoid.” He breathed in. A deep breath. They picked up speed. It was as real now as it was back then. All those people were sneaking glances. Whispering. Joking, making fun. Snide comments. Accusations. Alec had asked the question. The ultimate question. They had made love that night. For the first time. The first time ever. Then there were all the people in the carriage. Going where? To work, out somewhere? Looking. Staring. They knew. Didn't they? The wheels screeched. They shuddered to a halt. If they had only arrived quicker, but it was always slow. Weekday or weekends. Overcrowded. Slow. “I was paranoid.” That was true. He thought everyone was looking. Talking. Accusing. “I thought they all knew our secret.” All those people on the train. Going to work, going out. They knew and were sniggering. Laughing. Whispering. “I projected my total insecurity onto everyone.” He had. He had moulded all those people into a reflection of himself. His inability to accept who he was. “I thought they might actually throw me off the train!” He felt different now. Now it was too late. Looking left, then right. Past Alec. Looking at the people. They had other things on their minds than him and Alec. “For being gay.” He said that like an apology. In a way it was. An apology to Alec. He also realised he never had quite gotten over it. Being gay. He could say it now. Maybe that was something. “I thought I had accepted it, but I had a long way to go. On that train I was barely keeping things together.” That was true. He had been close to breaking down completely. “That is no excuse. I told you, I cannot excuse the pain I caused you.” He hardly noticed as they moved forward slowly. Grinding along the tracks. Clanking over the points. “I told you I didn't love you.” When he repeated those words it was as if he held a knife in his hands. He was a murderer. He'd killed their love. Destroyed it. Before it had a chance. The doors were opening. The carriage was emptying. He hadn’t noticed that they’d arrived. Still, he stayed seated, waiting for the crowds to exit. He noticed two boys, young men. Saw them kiss. He looked over at the seat next to him. It was empty. The carriage was empty. Silent. Alec had gone. Of course he had. A faint voice disturbed him. “Mister! Mister! You all right?” He thought that he felt hands gently rocking him. The carriage doors were wide open. The platform empty. He saw Alec waiting. Waving to him from the platform. Forty years had not changed him at all. He looked just the same. Smiling. He didn’t hesitate one minute. He sprang up and made for the doors. He glanced back briefly. The two young men were crouched over an elderly person alone in the carriage. The yellow letters scrolled across the indicator – Terminus... Tears streamed down his face. He literally jumped through those doors onto the platform. Alec was there to greet him. END
More About Boys on Trains The Thorns had won by an eyelash, and the enthusiastic crowd had gone wild. It was all a surprise to me. All of it. I’d been in Portland on a sightseeing trip, and as I had no plans for the evening, and I’d never been to a professional soccer match, I’d said to myself, what the hell, and decided to take in the game. I did things like that, now that I was older, by myself and free to follow my whims. Take a bite out of life in ways I hadn’t during my stuffier, younger years. That was why I’d taken the light rail to the game. I hadn’t done that before, either. I’d driven before. Using public transportation was going to be as much of an adventure as the game itself, so why not go whole hog? I’d thought the stadium would be half-empty. It was a weeknight game, a women’s game, and so I’d figured there’d probably be a small crowd. I hadn’t realized that Portland had a mania for anything and everything soccer. Men, women, kids, pro, amateur, school teams, independent leagues—soccer! The stadium was full; people were chanting and singing during the game; drums were beating; scarves were waving; coordinated cheers were bandied about. I’d never seen anything like it. After the game, there were long lines at the light-rail-system stop. I was taking the train back to the station where I’d left my car. When I finally boarded, it was like entering a sardine can as a sardine. The seats were all taken, the aisles in each car were jam-packed with standing passengers, and you were lucky if you got close enough to a pole to hang onto. It would be about a half-hour trip for me, so I accepted my fate and thought how to spend the time. That took no thought at all: I’d do what I always did. I’d watch the people around me, watch their body language, see how they related and reacted to the folks nearby. How they acted at stops when people behind them needed to get off. How they glanced at the fortunate people who were seated; how they considered their chances of snaring a seat when it was eventually abandoned; saw them work out their various strategies and reposition themselves so they could up their odds of nabbing one. I am enjoying myself, looking around. I’m taller than many of the other standing riders and so can see over the heads of most passengers. My eyes land where they often do—on teenage boys. I see several threesomes, quartets and quintets of the creatures and one lonely pair. The boys are generally hyper and can’t contain themselves. They are wearing soccer gear, so I assume they were at the game, as was much of the crowd on the train. I don’t know if the boys’ energy is due to the home team winning. It could be because of the marvelous header off a corner kick in the 89th minute that broke the 1-1 tie, or it could be just that the boys were out at night with no supervision. Too, it could simply be their inexhaustible teen energy. But whatever the cause, they’re full of themselves, they’re happy and alive, and I can’t take my eyes off them. I look at the different groups of them, but it is the pair who are standing apart from the others that my eyes keep drifting back to. The other groups are interacting with each other. Maybe they all go to the same high school. Or are in the same soccer league. Or whatever; it’s clear that all those boys know each other. They take no notice of the people around them. Those people, especially the older men like me, generally look pained. They generate an air of discomfort toward the kids—or more truthfully, disapproval. Why? The kids aren’t bothering anyone; they’re just being happy, perhaps a bit boisterous, kids. But the old men don’t like them, don’t want them there. It shows clearly in each face, eye and posture. The pair is set off from the other groups. Those two boys aren’t in any way being boisterous. They’re just standing together. They seem oblivious to the other groups which are tending to meld into one as the train is making stops and unloading more passengers than it is boarding. The smaller crowd in the aisle has caused a change in the dynamics of the people still standing and has allowed the groups of boys to coalesce. The pair is still standing alone, though; they’re speaking to each other now and then and looking around. Then one of the pair’s eyes meet mine. Sudden confusion. Should I look away? No, that would be too obvious that I’d been doing something wrong by looking at them. Should I smile and nod? NO! Way too aggressive, too interfering. What I do is meet that pair of eyes for a second and then move mine slightly, passing by, in no hurry, just looking around, making it look like that’s what I was doing when our eyes met. Just coincidence. I glance back surreptitiously a moment later, again passing my eyes over the two. Now both boys are looking at me, the first boy speaking in the ear of the other. He’s talking about me. No doubt about that. Well, if they’re allowed to look at me, shouldn’t I be allowed to look at them? I certainly think that’s fair. I couldn’t have done that a few years ago. Had I been anywhere between 30 and 65, I still couldn’t have done it. In today’s climate, with all the concern about pedophiles, it’s simply too dangerous. You can’t stare at boys no matter their age if you’re a man in that age group. Well, you can’t, but still I always did, even when younger. The appeal was too great not to. I was careful, of course. But I looked. Now I am older. Approaching 76. A frisky 75, but still . . . . I don’t think I look like a risk to anyone. And I’m not—never have been. But I am well aware of what I look like to the two teens who are observing me. I am old. Old men give teens a hard time as a rule. And one basic rule that affects teen boys is: don‘t you dare be gay in front of an old man, because old men hate gay boys. Those men grew up in a time when gay people were opprobrious. That’s a generality, of course, but for too many men of an older generation, it’s an axiom. I allow my eyes, soft and accepting, to fix on them. That puts the ball in their court. Look away from me? Ignore me? Stare back? What will it be? It’s none of those. It is better. Far better! They don’t see me as a threat; that’s obvious. They see me as something far different. With both their eyes now on mine, the whispering one says something to and grins at the other, then drops his eyes and his hand, and that hand takes the other boy’s hand. They hold hands, and then the boy slowly lifts his eyes back to mine. There’s a look of pride on his face and just a smidgen of tentative—tentative what? Fear? No, not really. Curiosity maybe? Or perhaps hope? Mostly pride. And then, a moment of conspicuous happiness. I feel my heart speed up a bit. But I can’t be sure why they are doing this. Do they recognize a person who might be enchanted by their courage, by their age, by their brave approach to whatever lies ahead of them? Or are they playing a game, wanting to humiliate me if I show approval? Point at me and laugh? No, they don’t look like that. It looks to me very much like this is the first time ever they’ve had the courage to do this in public. Maybe that’s what this is: a test. Not so much of me, but of society. And, of course, of themselves. All sorts of thoughts and possibilities skitter through my head, along with the sad recognition that I’ll probably never, ever know the real reason they have for what they’re doing. But I realize I knew what I was going to do all along, without all these extraneous thoughts. I’m going to show them my approval. I’m going to assume they are using me as a sounding board, using me as a window into the feelings of society as a whole. I start to smile at them. Then I plan to wink and nod my head. They’ll see how supportive I am of them. So, I stand a bit taller—then hear a young voice. “Sir? Mister? Would you like to sit? Here, sit here?” I turn to find a girl, probably the boys’ age, middle to late teens, speaking to me. She’s sitting but rises, pointing to her seat, a sort of embarrassed smile on her face. I’m shocked. No one has ever offered me a seat on a crowded train or bus before—not that I’ve ridden that many. But her gesture gives me the sudden realization that now I am officially old. I’ve never thought of myself as old. But this girl sure enough thinks I am. I’m being offered a seat! Because I’m old! My God! I am old, but I’m not stupid, and sitting down is very welcome. I thank her and accept the seat. I never do get to smile and wink at the lads. When it’s my stop, I get up and off, and the boys are nowhere to be seen. What did they think? That I turned away from them for all the wrong reasons? I’ll regret not being able to give them that wink and smile for the rest of my days.
Support System a Boys on Trains flash by James Merkin Sometimes, when I’m having a slow day and I don’t swing along fast enough, a trainman will shut the doors in my face just as I get there and leave me standing on the platform. I’ve looked up and caught his sneer but fuck it, it’s just one more thing to deal with. Sometimes someone will hold the train by standing against the edge of the sliding door until I can swing myself into the subway car. It’s usually an older guy, somebody’s dad, and I flash him a grateful smile. Of course he’ll look away quickly and avert his eyes. I’m used to that. If it’s a good day I can just make it to the train when schools have let out. I always try to find a seat in the middle of the car. Those seats face into the center and I can see best there. I can watch the schoolboys as they jostle and push and stand or sit in groups full of talk and camaraderie. Every once in a while a cute boy will catch my eye. I live for those moments. I’ll look him over and daydream about him and commit him to my memory. Sometimes he’ll notice and look back at me. Once or twice when that happened the boy even smiled at me. I dreamed about that boy for weeks. But usually if I look too long and he senses my glance he’ll turn away or make a face or say something rude or angry about me. I guess if I were in his shoes and an ugly dwarf with bent legs and crutches stared at me I’d get angry, too. They never bother me or try to retaliate. They can tell right away how strong I am. Nearly twenty years on crutches will do that for your upper body and arms. No, they just turn away, maybe whisper something to a friend, and make a point of not looking in my direction for the rest of the trip. I generally stop looking, too, once they turn away and lose their cuteness to some other emotion. Yesterday, though, I saw a really cute boy come onto the subway car. He was very young – maybe only fourteen or fifteen -- and he had that soft fresh complexion boys have before they have to start shaving. He had brown hair that touched his collar and his big brown eyes, pert nose, and soft lips made a portrait I won’t forget. He even noticed me looking at him and he gave me a brief grin, then blushed and looked away to find a seat across from me not too far away. He concentrated his attention on his cell phone. I guess he was playing a game or texting because from time to time he’d frown in concentration and his thumbs were flying. Every once in a while he’d laugh at something on his screen. He was so cute I memorized as much of him as I could. Luckily the train wasn’t crowded and I could watch him without interruption. I soon noticed that someone else was watching him, too. I don’t miss much, particularly the attentions of other boy watchers, and the other watcher was a guy I’d seen on the subway a couple of times already. I get a really bad vibe whenever I see him. He is always watching boys, especially very young boys, and he always looked as though he hated them. You could see the rage in his face, and his fists were clenched. His whole body looked like it was ready to spring. I’d seen him bump boys deliberately when the car was crowded and riders had to stand. It looked to me that he wanted to force them into a corner or something. A couple of times a smaller boy would seem terrified after encountering him. I kept an eye on the creepy guy, as I’d labeled him – quick glances to check on him, even though it was interfering with my own enjoyment of the boy we both had focused on. The boy finished with his phone and put it away as we pulled into an underground station. It appeared to be his stop, since he was standing up, unsteadily balancing himself as he hoisted his backpack and turned toward the doors in the center of the car. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the creepy guy stand, too. His eyes were boring into the boy’s back and his expression was truly frightening. As the car slowed to a stop the doors opened and the boy slipped out onto the platform. He was alone and he set off in the opposite direction from most of the departing crowd. He was heading into darkness and I knew I would soon lose sight of him. Then creepy guy made his move. He gathered up his scruffy gym bag and headed toward the doorway. I knew he was going to follow the boy. As he moved past me I stuck one of my crutches out slightly, as though it had slipped from my side. It was enough to catch his right foot. He went down immediately, full face onto the floor of the subway car. The gym bag fell from his grasp. As it fell it flipped over and a wicked long sharp knife fell onto the floor. Entering passengers who had just stepped onto the car gaped and drew back. The doors finally closed as he lunged for the knife. I brought my other crutch down hard on his hand. It made a satisfying crunch as I pinned his hand to the floor. He screamed. I told the guy sitting beside me to pull the Emergency Cord. I didn’t much mind spending the evening being interrogated by the transit police, after they’d cuffed the creep and taken him away. Turned out he was a known sex offender, and was already wanted for questioning. One cop even called me a hero. I just want to be able to see the boy again. _____