Amtrak

Grace Campbell

Inside the abandoned train there’s a cartoon drawing of my girl Kelly, all naked with tits round as 24” rims. Cartoon Kelly’s arms are outstretched wide with shackles at her ankles and a conversation bubble with some words of begging, please, yes, like that written and scratched out a dozen times above the doodle loops of her hair. It could be me, or anyone we run with, but I know it was Kelly at one point because her name was there under where someone pasted a Hello My Name Is sticker and now the cartoon’s name is Fuck You, which we could have predicted from the jump.

We come there when we already been a lot of other places. The night’s stacked like toddler Jenga. There’s the quarry keg stand. Then Ken Barney’s party. Kenny’s parents met the Bush family once and he makes sure no one fucks with the photo proving it. After that, we watch the trendy people try to set their Wild Turkey breath into fireballs against the night sky but the lighters never stay lit or someone’s fingernail starts to melt and anyway the trendy people aren’t really our scene so we end up in the old Amtrak.

The seats on the inside of the train are shredded like Christmas wrap and stuffed with condom wrappers and I think you gotta be busting a nut hard to want to get laid in this train car. If it was your choice at all. Which is why we: Kelly and me, we never hit this place alone.

We get into the train by climbing up the bent metal grate of what could be the caboose, though I don’t think Amtrak ever really had cabooses, in fact I think cabooses are one of the many things adults let children believe exist like painless dentist visits and quick trips to the post office but anyway. The outside of the train car is braided in loose ropes of yellow and red and silver Krylon. The inside is dark as a nightmare and smells like a toilet bowl ashtray that someone tried to clean with Jack Daniels, maybe us. Maybe always us. I can’t be sure of whatever happens in here and we know enough to not talk about it much when we’re around anyone else who doesn’t bring it up first.

Kelly moves through the car and I’m behind her tripping on the wading pool of Genny Cream Ale cans at my feet, feeling my way ahead from seat-back to seat-back hoping I don’t get stuck with one of the sharps that stud the old navy and crimson striped leather. I tell her I have shitty night vision, does she remember that I have shitty night vision and ahead I hear the laughter spill out between her braces, wide and dangerous, curling around her shoulder like I’ve just said the funniest thing ever. Then I hate how we all take every bit of everything like it’s not serious.

Kelly half tumbles ahead of me then rights herself, catches her breath and says Campbell, seat 14B is waiting for you, please have your ticket validated and I say, It’s right here, just reach up inside my asshole and Kelly says, Campbell, you kill me, we gotta find your ass a boyfriend and I say I thought you were my boyfriend and she says Don’t go all dyke on me and underneath her laughter I decide this isn’t the best time to lay out my theory about how everyone is probably decently queer anyway but she’ll come to it, I’ve seen potential.

Kelly pulls out a bowl and a plume of lighter sets the packed nugget into a quick cast of orange for a moment. Then again, then once more because Kelly does not fuck around, because Kelly is only ever fucking around. I pull out a cigarette and while she’s holding the exhale at the back of her throat she says Cigarettes are disgusting and I say Just validate my ticket, asshole.

The streetlight somewhere outside tries to slink into the train-car and fails. Our knuckles work the seatbacks in that way that fists convince things to stay put, shut up, help us remain upright. Loose roulette of laughter because: punch-drunk, because: Game Over, because: someone on the Pep Squad or whatever you call it just melted off their own fingernail trying to play a circus brat.

The thick walls of the train car amplify even the movement of Kelly’s palm along its metal shell and the sifting sound of my hand pulling a few hairs behind my ear. But outside, as always, it’s nothing but a silent husk, something left over from some dystopian pulp.

Then Kelly says in her Holding The Exhale For A Few Seconds Longer register, Campbell, do you believe in God? And I say Why, did you find a communion wafer? And Kelly wobbles a bit there, her frame dark against dark and says I’m gonna have to go to church tomorrow, you know I can’t get out of it. And I say Just sing the songs. The songs are always pretty. Kelly says You’re lucky you don’t have to do any of that stuff. You get to come and go as you please and never have to answer to anyone, never do chores, never get grounded. Then I decide now is not the best time to lay out my theory on how having parents like a serving suggestion in a house full of empty cupboards and dimers of shake is not as rosy as one would think and somehow the taut skin of that well held thought bubble perforates and emits only the words I suppose from my aching mouth.

Let’s sing one right now, Kelly says, after a thick few seconds of silence. What? I say. Yeah, let’s sing one. Then, from Kelly’s mouth, rickety and uncertain Fall on your knees, hear the angel voices and mine, then, Oh night, oh night divine. Kelly tries to sound out a few more bars but neither of us can remember them so I interrupt her with I don’t really know if this is the best place to find God, I mean, if you’re looking for him.

Then why does it feel better in here than it does in church, she asks, her voice weighted in a sullenness that makes me kind of want to genuflect.

Maybe because here we know exactly what we’re guilty of, I say after some moments. Kelly empties a sputtery magazine of laughter out. It pinballs against all the bent metal ripped up interiors we know are angry technicolor though the night pickpockets that from our vision no matter how hard we squint and turns everything into fine grit sandpaper. Kelly’s laughter makes me laugh and the laughter together: a loose-toothed nocturnal stray. The laughter: sloppily braided, everycolor spray marking the moment with our initials. The laughter: Fuck You, like we could have predicted from the jump.

 

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