People shoot at trains. They take out their guns, hang out along the right of way and fire. The first time I heard the boom and felt the slam, I nearly jumped into Frank’s lap.
“What was that?”
“Somebody shot at us.” He shrugs.
“I don’t know. Trains seem powerful, and these guys realize they’re not. Makes ‘em feel better.” Then he pulls my hips closer to his and says, “Don’t worry, I’m here to protect you.” We both laugh. He likes to be corny.
There’re seventy-five miles of track from Bay Head, N.J. to Penn Station at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. The train milk-runs through the leafy clapboard comforts of Point Pleasant, Spring Lake, Bel Mar, Little Silver, Middletown, then meanders inland to Matawan where it picks up its last suburban cargo and heads inland past landfills and red brick tenements with screen-less windows and behind the Ford plant—through Woodbridge and Rahway and Newark, before it dives under the Hudson River and comes up in Manhattan.
The North Jersey Coast Line uses rolling stock from the 1950’s. Passengers sit on once well-padded bench seats for two, with arms of steel tubing upholstered in mint green vinyl. The seat backs flip from one side of the bench to the other. When it’s not crowded Frank makes us a private compartment, puts his outside foot on the seat ahead to bar the entrance.
Through one of the turns the steel pocket door at the end of the car breaks loose, slips inside the bulkhead, then slams out and latches itself again.
Frank and I live in our fortress of crenelated steel. The whole of the life that we have together is here. The thigh pressed against mine is bigger than my waist. I can see the weave in his grey trousers and the hair on his wrist where it sticks out of his coat and the gold band embedded in his meaty finger. I feel the dampness of his skin, and smell the warm, human scent of his shoes. He dangles his hand on my thigh, and I am poised on the edge of desire in our bulletproof house where love is safe.
Claudia Geagan has a BA in English and an MS in Finance. After a career in financial services in New York and Detroit, she now lives and writes on a mountainside in South Carolina. Her work has been featured in The Louisville Review, Persimmon Tree, Hippocampus Magazine, and The Lindenwood Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Claudia’s work was featured in Issue 3.5 of Embodied Effigies.