On The Train, Again - Part Five of Angel
“…they called him handsome
yeah, handsome was his name
he came down from venus
and he told me was staying
but one day he loved me
and the next he ran away
`they called him handsome
yeah, handsome was his name
he came down from venus
but he'll go back to pluto just the same
`and maybe one night he'll love me
maybe one night he'll stay
but he came down from venus
and tonight he goes away…”
I saw a boy. He was sitting in the dining car; scribbling on his notebook. I tried hard not to stare. But, sometimes, it's impossible. My friends all sat around me. They chattered about how Gettysburg would be so great. We'd get to see the old battlefields; Honest Abe's humble abode. And: Fort Michigan, a genuine cobblestone village, where people who dressed in period clothes re-enacted the everyday life of the earliest settlers of America.
We rocked back and forth while the scenery was muscled aside by the powerful, steaming locomotive we rode on. It didn't feel powerful in there, surrounded by clinking glass and the rumbling of the trestles beneath us. I was too captivated by him to have any power. The conversation twisted around while I remained oblivious to it. I began agreeing to everything they said.
He had beautiful long, brown hair that hung down to his shoulders. It was tied back when he was still eating. But, after the waiter took his plate, he pulled his scrunchie off and on to his wrist. I watched as he shook his hair free, it cascading down over his shoulders. His face was perfectly framed by his hair as he reached into his bag and pulled out a worn-out composition book. He was right-handed on which there was a plain silver band around his ring finger.
The pen seemed to barely touch the paper. He hardly seemed to be holding it. But, still, words formed on the page, in blue. They seemed to dance in front of him, the pen just an instrument in a divine creation. I watched him, feeling like I did when I first saw a coin vanish.
My buddies were all talking about going back to their seats. Reluctantly, I left with them. He was sipping coffee when I walked past. A plastic-wrapped plate with left-overs sat beside him. He seemed engrossed in his writing, the pen still moving furiously beneath his hand. Behind him, farmland flew by. Behind it, the sun was setting. I wished I had brought my camera to dinner.
Back in our seats, we played card games and flipped through magazines. I couldn't get him out of my mind. My friends, Brock, Mike and Joey all knew I was queer. It wasn't a problem between us. They accepted me as one of the guys. I prided myself on my masculine nature. Though, sometimes, I wondered if it was because of some internalized homophobia I had not yet realized. The last guy I dated accused me of that. I tried not to let it bug me. But the thought that he could see something inside of me that I couldn't was troubling. I'd like to think that I'm self-aware; and, also, that I'm exceptionally understanding.
I've been known to be a player, though. My longest relationship was nine months. But my average was at two weeks. I'm not happy with that. I know I could change it all if I would just get to know someone before fucking him. But…I like fucking.
My mind whirled through self-doubt. And my thoughts left me feeling empty. Suddenly, cards became so much more important. I told myself not to worry, soon a movie would be showing and then I would get to sleep, and forget. But it never works like that, does it?
I woke up in the pseudo-darkness that only coach can afford. Next to me, Joey was snoring. It was quiet. I didn't feel like going back to sleep after I took a piss, so I grabbed my blanket and headed towards the observation lounge. Some staff were up, drinking coffee, in the dining car. Hardly anyone was in the lounge. There were only a couple, up top, making out, and a sleeping woman in the corner opposite them. No sense in bothering the couple, though I don't think they would have noticed me. There was really no sense in getting grossed out myself. So I headed downstairs. It was colder there. But the car rocked less. I sat down in a booth in the shadows and stared outside at the passing darkness. In the distance, I could see porch lights. Nothing up close though, still farmland.
“Hey” I heard someone say.
I looked around me and saw Him, sitting at the top across from me, holding a book. My stomach jumped into my throat.
“Hu-hi,” I stammered.
He smiled gently and pushed a lock of hair behind his ear, “Can't sleep?”
“No…. Well, yeah, I just woke up.” I turned to face him more, “Felt like coming down here for a bit. I don't know why.”
“Well, I won't bother you,” He turned his nose back to his book.
There he is. I told myself, right in front of you. He's within your grasp! My mind screamed, talk to him! Ask his name! There had to be something we could talk about.
Suddenly the darkness seemed so much more interesting. It was so much safer. After all, I knew it was dark. I could depend on that. This boy was the unknown. And, though I wanted to know him, I was scared. I watched him fold a corner of a page and close his book. My chance was slipping away.
He didn't get up to leave. No, he remained sitting, staring at me. I quickly looked back out the window, thinking maybe I had been caught. He said nothing. A minute passed. I looked to my side. He was still watching me. The aching trestles hummed and the scenery rustled past us. I could hear it….
“What's your name?” He broke the silence.
My head jerked towards him, surprised, “I'm Cole.”
He studied me a moment.
“You don't look like a Cole,” he looked me in the eyes.
I looked away, scared that he may see something inside me that I couldn't.
“Then, what do I look like?” I didn't mean to sound defensive, but . . . I was scared.
He grinned, “I dunno!”
It was an infectious grin; a boyish grin. Now that I could finally look at him directly, I took my chance. His lips were full and red. They were chapped, slightly, and he wore a string of colored shells around his neck. Something deep inside me stirred when I looked into his red rimmed eyes. His smile faded and suddenly he seemed vulnerable, sad. I wanted to hug him.
“What's your name?” I asked.
“I'm Adam,” He pushed the book into his bag.
I smirked, “You don't look like an Adam.”
“Well, what do I look like, then?” His smile returned.
I shrugged, “I dunno.”
A quiet understanding went between us then.
“Can I sit next to you, Cole?”
Adam told me he was going back to Pennsylvania to live with his aunt. I was coming from SLC (Salt Lake City, Utah) and on my way to Pennsylvania, too. To see Fort Michigan, and then I would be off to Virginia. We were going on some stupid tour of colonial America. He had lived down in L.A. for most of his life. But he was moving because his home life wasn't so hot. I wanted to ask him more about that. But it didn't seem like he wanted to talk about it. So I respected his space and we talked about other things. By four, I could barely keep my eyes open. Even though I wanted to talk more, my body wouldn't have any of it. We parted with promises to meet up again at breakfast.
I couldn't wait to write about Adam in my travel journal.