on train A, my right knee knocks into a stranger’s by accident and i stuff my fist into my pocket. on train B, a girl in a blue jacket shoulder-checks you halfway down the aisle and you reach for her hand. if one of us is headed north and the other is running circles in the south, is this still the game we play? you are moving at a different speed, and i cannot tell if i am going slower, maybe faster, maybe just in a different direction, but if train A has stopped writing love poems and train B is still sending drunk texts, when do the they meet?
maybe it doesn’t matter. maybe they both keep going and no one, not one single soul, ever thinks anything of it. maybe they are both only trains and they both keep being only trains after their paths cross in some phenomenally unimportant eclipse of metal and years later, with more miles between them than anyone can count, neither will remember where they were headed that night. in this universe, the train operators go home to their children without any stories. in this universe, the trains run together with a hundred others and weeds never grow on the tracks. i am falling in love with someone else’s laugh for the fifth time in a week and there are no songs that remind me of you.
in another, the trains crash into one another. head on, full speed, in broad daylight. strangers build memorials to the wreckage; they leave crosses by the tracks, silk flowers that the wind drags away. my grandmother whispers the gory details of it all over phone lines to her church friend, and it’s all too much to speak about too loudly. the gasoline blast takes out every tree in its radius and it so grand, such a terrible disaster that the paper mill salvages them to print the newspaper. the crash makes the front page it makes every page; someone draws a comic strip, a frame by frame recreation of this awful accident, complete with a speech bubble taking up half the page, full of how it sounded when everyone’s mothers cried. strangers hang the clippings on their friend until they turn to dust, crumbling with postcards and grocery lists under magnets from the grand canyon, disneyworld, aarp.
in either universe, collision or no, i am trying to convince myself that it is not romantic. there is nothing about me or you that could be described as wreckage, or metal, or barreling towards or away from anything. all the metaphors, all the trains with their arrival times and my shaking fingers and your aching neck they’re just metaphors. we are just skin. just two people on different tracks and our relative proximity to each other doesn’t change this.
i am still trying to convince myself of it.