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Backstroke

By Uncategorized

Illustration by Megan Pryce


It’s 10:06 in the morning.
The outside temperature is verging on 21 degrees fahrenheit and the last carefree minute of her day is now fleeing far and high.

She chooses the first seat she sees as she enters the train and realizes too late that she is once again facing the direction of travel. She already knows the landscape from this seat, how it functions, how it unravels. There is no surprise, no unexpected sights. No trees nor streets jumping from behind her shoulder. She sees it all coming towards her, statically coming closer. While her calves are gently singeing, licked by the heating below her seating, she curls her frozen fingers inside the palm of her hands.

The skies are the painful blue of steel, it presses on the back of her eyeballs and burns the inside of her lids. The skies are a sharp-edged blue of steel on which downy charcoal clouds run aground. Raindrops are racing on the window pane. She often wishes she was a water marble, speeding through the dirt in a febrile and serpentine score, bound to end in liquid fusion with another fluid pearl.

But in this swaying can, bodies don’t fuse, and routes are dry. Glances bounce off one another, and the air is one long sigh. The smell of weed floating thick and heavy meets the stench of anxiety that weeps from the mid-morning commuters, those front-facing travelers.

The clinking and roaring of the wheels on the rails barely covers the racket of their mental gears. “What must I do today to earn the right of a pleasurable rest at night, to, at last, be unproductive yet feel no guilt? How many more icy, musty, dreary trains must I ride before I am worthy of coming home?”

She thinks of the sun and warmth she walked away from. “You have your whole life to settle back home, but only your young years to eat up the world,” she repeats to herself, “it’s worth it in the long run.” But how long is this run?

It’s 10:32 in the morning. The doors open, and she loses her train of thought. She makes a self-promise to catch it up again next time, perhaps this time in the right direction.

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