A train runs by her bedroom window every morning at 6:34. An old coal train that no longer carries coal, but a few of the older cars still bear the name of an extinct iron and coal company. Its loud chug-chugging bringing her rent down to a reasonable price. Its obtrusive tremors allowing her to live alone for the first time.
She’s come to find it comforting, one of the few remaining constants in her life that she can count on. She's started to find solace in the shadows it casts on her as it rides in front of the rising sun each morning. The way it clatters and jangles her bones and her insides makes her feel alive in the simplest way. It’s a feeling she thinks she’s felt before only it was clouded with the presence of others and now it comes to her, clear and unmistakable. And she stands in front of the window, counting the cars as they pass, and saying it to herself: She is alone, but she is alive.
Only now, on this particular morning, when she wakes to that familiar rumble starting off in the distance and slowly growing in volume until her window panes are shaking violently in their frames. Now, on this particular morning, when she rolls over in bed, stretching her arm out along the mattress (warm, not cool) and opening her eyes slowly, there’s a figure in the window. Hands resting on the window sill, shoulder blades pressing up against skin as if they could get free, stretches of warm skin turning golden as the early morning light catches on it.
She watches him for a moment on this morning, this first morning after that first night when she’d felt those shoulder blades beneath her fingers as she pulled at his skin. That first night when all of their sentences seemed to be spoken against the other’s mouth. That first night when he’d smiled in the darkness, somehow sensing her nervousness, and laughed a little, asking her why her alarm clock was taped down to her nightstand. That first night when he’d stopped, despite his obvious desire to do anything but stop, to listen as she told him about the train and the mornings she’s spent at her window.
Muscles move under skin, his boxers settling low on his hips, his head moves closer and closer to the window until his forehead is against the glass, trying desperately to get that first glimpse of the train coming. A surge of want swells deep within her, so overwhelming that her limbs feel restless with not touching him. But she doesn’t move or call out to him. She wants him to feel the train push its way under his skin, wants to share that with him.
She smiles against her pillowcase, thinking of the feeling as being theirs. Something like a secret that they’ll keep forever, because even if they wanted to tell, they could never properly explain it.
She can hear the train getting closer and she watches his hands grip a little harder on the windowsill. The sound of the engine is loud now and she’s sure he knows she’s awake, but he doesn’t turn around. His shoulders tense as the train comes speeding right past her window. His head jerks back, unbelieving the proximity of it. And then he relaxes a little and he watches the cars flying by. She can see his eyes trying to follow each individual car. And after the train has completely passed, he lingers for a moment and then slowly turns around.
The sun has risen almost completely and his smile is slow as he walks back to the bed. When he gets close, she reaches out lazily and gets a loose grip on his hand, tugging a little as he falls back into bed. He groans contentedly as he settles next to her, sleep starting to overcome him again.
She turns her back to him and his hand goes to her hip pulling her against him, his mouth on her shoulder. He kisses her there, just barely, and murmurs, halfway to sleep, “Let’s take a train somewhere someday.”
She tilts her head so she can catch his now sleeping mouth with hers for the briefest moment and lets her mind think about words like let’s and someday. And all she can see on the backs of her eyelids are windows opening out to the vastest skies.
unfold is the author of 102 other stories.
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