Jan. 7th, 2011

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Sasha Genarelli settles herself behind the wheel of the Fiesta and unpries the pantyhose from her butt. The minute she was out of sight of the two men in the house her expression changed; she looks sharper in the car, and a lot more tired.

The passenger door opens and shuts; Sasha always drives. She checks her make-up in the mirror, lightens her red hair to something in auburn family. She hates this suit, but she can't afford to throw any of them out while they still fit.

"Yeah, I believe them," she tells her partner. She rolls down the window, considers a cigarette, changes her mind, leaves it cracked. The air out there is New Year air, cold and sharp as a knife, and the interior of the rental could use it. "Fuck."

She leans over and scrounges a McDonalds bag from the passenger wheelwell. She extracts a salt packet and lays it in a line on the dash. Blows, and watch the crystals dance. Her lips tighten. "Fuck," she says again. A cat is watching the Fiesta from the bushes across the cul-de-sac; she gives it the finger.

***

Layla gets on the train in Syracuse; it's full dark by now, and the seats are crammed with slumbering commuters. She thinks for a moment she'll be on her feet until the next stop at least, but then she sees the spot, by the window, by a man, grizzled and smelly. From here, from the far end of the train, he looks like he smells, poring over a theme notebook like she used in middle school.

Her lips tighten. Uh-uh, no way, no no. She feels her stomach knot up at the idea of getting close, pushing past him for the seat. Her New Year's resolution is to do something everyday that scares her, but there is a limit, and if Layla knows anything it's that men don't always wish her well. After several minutes, when the train is in motion, she realizes she has to pee.

She walks up the aisle, using that special braced walk you have to use on a moving train, swaying slightly sideways; she's heading for the bathroom, and also she's going to look at the seat, not going to take it, but she's going to look at it and be really pissed off that she's too scared to sit there. Getting pissed off more often is also on her list of New Year's resolutions. When you find out you've been cheated on your response should not be I'm sorry.

She is level with the empty seat--he has another stack of notebooks on it! What a tool! What an absolute asshole!--when her heel snaps and she drops into the aisle like a puppet with her strings cut. She feels like a puppet, like some weird gravity at the end of the train has drawn her here and broken her new heel--it's not even a very high heel--in order to bring her here, to this seat she doesn't want to sit in next to this man who scares her.

And naturally, he has to be nice. It makes her angry that he's nice. He jumps up from the seat, saying awkward but kind things, and helping her up, the notebook dropped on the ground. He moves the other notebooks into a filthy backpack and helps her (she doesn't want to be helped, he stinks) into the seat, where she is trapped between the window and the stink, trapped by politeness and that sense of false gravity, and she is making a really good start on being pissed off, so good for her.

From the tag on the luggage rack they have six hours together. She applies herself to the window industriously--she is not going to sleep--and tries to look through and past his reflection to the world outside. It looks like, feels like, the railways crap and the fences and the towns are on dollies being pulled backwards, while the train stands still. It looks fake.

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T. Oso

March 2016

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