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Ex­tracted from: In Tran­sit

SLOW Magazine - - Edition 40 - A short, un­pub­lished story by Bren­dan Marx Im­age © istockphoto.com

“Ex­cuse me sir, would you mind?”

with a prac­tised in­dif­fer­ence, the stranger lifted him­self from seat 16E and, without shift­ing his at­ten­tion from his novel, re­set his spec­ta­cles with a wig­gle of his mous­tache. “Thank you.” He nod­ded with a per­fect ab­sence of emo­tion and low­ered him­self back into his seat, care­ful not to dis­rupt the anonymity that held the cabin to­gether. His fixed scowl sug­gested that he was not fond of strangers and would not at­tempt to con­tinue down some ob­scure cor­ri­dor of con­ver­sa­tion. This, of course, al­le­vi­ated my anxiety, which I stored com­fort­ably in my pocket. what re­mained was to aban­don my­self to the drift of thought and de­tach my senses from the stale, syn­thetic at­mos­phere of the cabin.

To my surprise, and by some in­cal­cu­la­ble dis­po­si­tion, the mous­tached fel­low was asleep, his grey bris­tles shiv­er­ing be­neath his moun­tain­ous nose. His novel rested thought­fully on his lap, se­cured lightly by his ashy fin­gers. How he had man­aged to drop into sleep with such haste is a se­cret found only in the archives of the wise or the ac­ci­dents of fools. Per­haps it rested in his pocket – a draught of dreams stolen from Mor­pheus, or a pill syn­the­sized by a pale, spec­ta­cled doc­tor who could not sleep after the death of a lover. I mir­rored his pos­ture and closed my eyes. His se­cret, how­ever, would not be so eas­ily dis­cov­ered.

Upon his coun­te­nance, per­haps dis­guised within the con­tours of his wrin­kles, a script of mem­ory was writ­ten. Var­i­ous and im­per­ma­nent, it di­rected the move­ment of his mind; the opus of be­ing that would as­cend and fall into ar­bi­trari­ness. I thought of his boots and the dust they car­ried from the trenches of suf­fer­ing; how petals fell and mo­men­tar­ily brushed the coarse leather that marked his ex­is­tence, only to be for­got­ten in their de­cay. what wa­ters had he felt? whose lips? I en­vied him his uni­verse, this pil­grim of a less for­giv­ing time when torn sleeves and quiet an­guish mea­sured the tex­ture of be­ing. There he slept, this stranger whose chest ac­qui­esced to the push of fear and the pull of love. I watched com­plex­ity rise to the sur­face of his skin; how it dif­fused across his bones and van­ished. I knew then that I would see him again – if not on a train to some nos­tal­gic time or in a pub in the an­tipodes, I would see those same eyes, years from now, look­ing back at me from a mir­ror. such were we – in tran­sit.

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