arts & music

The Yokohama Tadpole (A Short Story on a Train)

by Lem — May 14, 2019
Man watching the blurred train stop at Yokohama station.

A short story in the time it takes to travel a few stations and head to the Yokohama train.

This short story has been lying around my hard drive since 2012. I can’t remember the reason for writing it, but I thought that it might be time to share it with the world. Reviews are greatly appreciated.

Another place, another time I surely would have lived a joyful life with you. Would wake up with you, eat dinner with you, be with you. But instead we stand in silence and I cannot speak to you, and you do not give me the pleasure of a single gaze. In the sultry atmosphere of the train station, I drink in your hands, your hair, your neck with thirsty eyes. You flick open your mobile phone, and your face hardens in the screen’s blueish light. You look tired, I can tell. I can always tell.

The train comes to a screeching halt and the doors sigh, rattle, and for a split second let heavy summer air escape. But the sea of bodies presses forward, rushes in, and I let go. There is no use resisting the fluid motion, it’s now all bodies with heads, neither arms nor legs – a train full of fleshy human tadpoles in an overcrowded puddle, rocking with the rhythm of the train, rubbing against each other in involuntary, damp unison.

A hollow female voice announces the next station and my heart sinks. The urge to grow legs and arms becomes overwhelming, to step forward, to reach out and, oh, so close! Three more stations. I count them in silence as your fingers fly over your mobile’s screen. Two. Tight lines around your mouth speak of bad news. One. Work, no doubt. The mechanical voice purrs the station name, and I hate her for it, with the kind of burning, cold hate that is reserved for inevitable events that are beyond my control, that take away whatever small amount of happiness I was desperately clinging to.

The train has little regard for my sentiments, and spits me out onto the platform. I stumble, turn – but the doors already close and with arrogant speed hide you from my view. The sound of traffic rushing beneath the elevated platform mixes with the train leaving, soon overtaking and replacing it. I detach myself from the edge of the rails, tentatively testing out suddenly grown back limbs. Step, swing. Step, swing. Step, swing. My efforts reward me with a cold drink from the vending machine, and I greedily gulp it down. Too sweet. Too sticky.

I crush the can with sudden anger and toss it into the nearest bin. A broken vinyl umbrella lies in it, and now drops of sickly sweet liquid run down the crushed remains. Used and discarded. I stare at it for a moment. A single drop still moves. Stops. Dries eventually. “Bloody heat”, I mutter under my breath and check my watch – time to catch the Yokohama train.

My mobile phone vibrates and I fumble for it with fingers still damp from the can’s condensation. A message from him. “I’ll tell my wife soon. I promise.” Liar, I laugh bitterly. You won’t. I catch my reflection in the incoming train window and absent-mindedly run a hand down my stubbled chin. A sigh escapes. I need a shave.

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

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