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More Boys on a Train.




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.



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