Written Spring 2012
Adrian looked out the window of the train cart and, for the fourth time since the Amtrack R143 from New York to Hartford had broken down, tried to take in the beautiful deciduous forests surrounding him. For a moment or two, Adrian stared out into the setting Connecticut sun attempting to induce some sort of awe. He ran his eyes in an even motion down the lines of pine trees that engulfed the horizon, giving each one an opportunity to make some sort of defense for why they should be looked at, studied, or appreciated; why people would leave their air conditioned houses and smother themselves in these uniform rows sharp pointy trees, each as sharp and pointy as the last. After finding whatever testimony the trees mustered unconvincing, Adrian returned to his iPad; a device thats worth seemed self evident to him. He swiped the device on and delved back into a book that had no issue evoking aesthetic pleasure, Suetonius' “The Twelve Caesar's”. He swiped through the pages he had long since read and re-read looking for something to comfort his ego, bruised from his inability to appreciate the simple beauty of nature. He stopped skimming at the onset of Julius Caesar's battle of Alesia. Reading of how Caesar constructed the dual ramparts to repel invaders from both fronts, and how he designed these ramparts to cave at explicit points where troops being funneled in would have the most difficulty, Adrian felt his desire to appreciate the forest around him disintegrate. Natural beauty is overrated, he thought to himself.
His self gratification was interrupted by a familiar beep, one well known to all users of Apple's mobile electronic devices. A beep that seemed to carry with it a small shot of adrenaline, just enough to draw you away from one conjured electronic distractions to the next, the infamous Facebook message notification. He looked at the notification, and felt a warmth grow from the core of his heart.
“New message from Katie Russel. Hey. I just wanted to let you know that I had a really great time last weekend. You are a wonderful person and I have so much fun every time I see you. I know that your busy with the whole Fidelco fiasco, but I would love to see you again this weekend. I have two tickets to the new musical production of Frankenstein. I know it sounds cheesy, but I've heard they good things. I would love...”
Adrian smirked as he clicked on the alert. As he waited for his iPad to grasp at whatever crumbs of internet service he could get out in the middle of nowhere, he reflected back on his time with her. He met her through his old college buddy Fred at a house party of a mutual acquaintance, and they seemed to really kick it off. She seemed so interested when he told her that he specialized in P.R work for financial institutions suckling from Uncle Sam's teat. She laughed when he told her about his latest press conference crucification, and how someone in the audience shouted that he was the Antichrist at the top of his lungs in front of representatives from the New York Times, and how the video was becoming a minor hit on Youtube. She told him not to worry, and told him about a prank her old roommates played on her in college where they put a bucket of cold water over her door, and recorded her getting soaked. She said she wanted to crawl into a hole and die when she saw it had 10,000 hits, but that eventually everything returned to normal.
“The Internet has a short attention span.” She said, and for the first time since the incident he felt relieved. Moreover, he felt like something he couldn't quite put his finger on just slid into place, something just felt right deep within him, and he knew he had to have her.
Since then they had been on two dates. Both had gone very well. He brought her to The Chelsea Wine Vault for a tasting event, hoping to impress her with the knowledge he had picked up browsing Wikipedia. Instead, the two of them spent the evening giggling at the host's pretentious and obviously fake British accent. The next weekend he took her down to Greenwich, and they spent a wonderful day browsing a fair devoted to hand made Americana. He ended up buying her a wooden carving of a cow with a mismatched eyes. She named him Alvis, and said that he had undergone botched laser eye surgery.
As he entered his login information, his thoughts turned towards the one low point of his time with her. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't seem to progress beyond a goodnight kiss. Both evenings ended with him driving her back to her house, and with him throwing out some one liners that would make Byron envious, but she still did not seem to want to take things further. She seemed attracted to him, clutching at his hands with urgency as they wandered the fair, and gently stroking his arm with the tip of her finger as they ate a wonderful dish of lobster from a small shack of a restaurant that caught his eye, but he couldn't seem to seal the deal. They would stand at her doorstep, and she would obliquely reference some macguffin in her apartment, but in the end she would resist, and he would be forced to settle for a quick peck on the lips instead.
At this point, he had finally gained access to his Facebook account. He clicked the alert notification at the top of the screen, and slowly, as if the site were an ancient mystic delicatley unrolling a long lost scroll, the full message began to appear.
“Hey. I just wanted to let you know that I had a really great time last weekend. You are a wonderful person and I have so much fun every time I see you. I know that your busy with the whole Fidelco fiasco, but I would love to see you again this weekend. I have two tickets to the new musical production of Frankenstein. I know it sounds cheesy, but I've heard they good things. I would love for you to accompany me. Also, I know that you've been a little hesitant about being physical, and I'm totally OK with taking things slow if that is what you want. I don't want to make you think that I'm trying to push a physical relationship or anything. I've just really had a great time with you and I would love to start getting a bit more serious.”
Immediately, Adrian hammered down on the large round button at the bottom of his iPad that would get him away from what he just read. He swept his had across the sea of application at his disposal, trying to find something to calm him down. I knew I should have never gone out with her, he thought. I knew this was a bad idea. God dammit, god dammit god dammit, why did I ever talk to her in the first place. He began tapping the Bookshelf application with the grace and tact theater usher prodding a intimate couple, and began flipping through the Suetonius. He scrambled passed Augustus and Tiberius, but when he paused on Caligula, the panic grew more intense than ever before. He smashed down on the exit button again and shut his eyes.
In your nose, out your mouth. In your nose, out your mouth. Breathe deeper and deeper. Hold your breathes at their apex, and slowly release. After five minutes of this Adrian felt a semblance of control return to his body. He reflected on Katie. He thought about her voice, and how she would pepper those dull bits of small talk that he normally despised with bits of 1940's slang, and how the anachronistic “doll” and “see” seemed to birth life into what he always thought was a lifeless social lubricant. Why did everything have to go so wrong? Why was he the one who was cursed with all this bullshit? What did he ever do to deserve it? His hands began to tremble as he thought about his situation. He wanted to get up and hurl the iPad across the immobile train. He wanted to rush through the carts, run up to the conductor, and just slug him across the face. Then it struck him. None of this mess was the conductor's fault. He had to accept responsibility for his predicament. This was his mess, he shouldn't have ever asked her out in the first place. He should have just accepted the solitude fated upon him with cold dignity. But he didn't, and now she was caught up in his own web of misery. He shouldn't have ever even talked to her. He didn't deserve to. At that moment Adrian realized that a change of venue might be appropriate. People were beginning to stare. He decided maybe a drink or two would help, and got up to go to the bar cart.
Two hours later, Adrian stumbled back into his seat. He hadn't made any progress with his dilemma, but had made considerable strides towards getting plastered. The full weight of his body collided with his chair, and immediately he felt his eyelids drifting down. After a few moments of reflection, he heard the engine start and the train begin to move. We'll at least I have that going for me, he thought. After a few more moments of reflection, he felt ready to face the world again. He opened his eyes to a train that seemed to be picking up speed. They must have been moving for a while though, because the pines that had previously covered all that could be seen in any direction had given way to a single row of Cyprus trees neatly running parallel to the train tracks. Elegant posts sprung up between the trees, every fifteen feet of track or so. Adrian noted the elegant twists and curls of the iron vines wrapped around the metal posts. The vines functioned both aesthetically and structurally, for as they jutted away from the pole they began to converge upon the stem of the dreidelesque cage that provided the only illumination against the pillow of midnight that smothered the surrounding landscape. I must have been at the bar longer than I thought, Adrian mused.
Adrian watched the pikes as the lights slowly lost their shape, transforming into blurs of light that shot past his compartment faster and faster, reaching an apex that was visibly more akin to a rave light than any moving vehicle Adrian had ever recalled being in before. Then, just as quickly, the glowing comets lost the trails of cosmic residue and began to reassemble recognizable shapes, and the dark, stone walkways of a station seemed to materialize out of the air.
The train doors opened, and a cold winter tempest charges in, sending the womb warmth that had permeated the air into a panicked retreat. In the wake of the icy advance came an army of businessmen, who had swarmed round the areas of the loading balcony as if they knew exactly where the train would stop. The businessmen, clad in their grayscale pinstripe suites, pewter trench coats, stygian wingtips, charcoal fedoras, and alizarin crimson banded leaden ties, pushed and shoved through the train in a discipled formation until the mass began to reach a maneuverable size as members chipped off into available seats. In this charging mass, Adrian pulled out one figure that stood radically opposed to the battle regalia donned by the businessmen. She word a unmarked cloth robe that came down like a V through the center of her chest, which was shielded from view by a second lair of bright red clothe under the robe. Her head stuck far above those of the businessman, aided by the series of rings that supported and elongated her neck. He watched as she made her way to the seat across from which he was sitting.
"Hi. My Names Katie." She said.
“I'm Adrian.” He said with a smirk. A gesture that she mimicked gracefully.
“If you don't mind me asking.” He said. “What's with the neck rings.”
“Oh these.” She said. “My parents make me where them. Say they'll help me find a husband.”
“How do you get them on?” Adrian asked.
“Oh, you just stretch you neck up like this.” She grabbed the bottom of her chin and thrust upward. “And then they just clip on.” She removed a ring shaped to fit the base of her throat from her purse, and clipped it on in a single motion.
“That's really cool.” Adrian said. “Mind adding another.”
“Sure.” She replied, repeating the process.
“So. What do you do?” Adrian asked.
“Oh, I'm in college for photography at the moment. But I really want to work in fashion.” Adrian could hear her gasping for air ever so slightly between words.
“Could you put on another? He asked.
“Absolutley.” She said. This time, however, the ring had to be forced. She thrust her chin up as hard as she could, and squeezed the ring around her neck.
“Is that why you're in the city.” He asked.
“Yeah.” She gasped, struggling to fill her lungs with the air required to exert the response.
“I, I heard about, an awesome, new designer... Names. Gerard. Leroux. I had a really... good...” With that, she shut her eyes and stopped moving.
“Katie.” Adrian asked alarmingly.
“Katie. Katie can you hear me!” He shouted, but no response save a slow final gasp.
Oh shit, oh shit. Adrian thought. Fuck, fuck fuck. What did I do. Why did I ask her to put on the rings. Adrian's heart was racing. He heard the clicking noise of the announcement speakers. Oh no, what if they saw. What if he says something over the loudspeakers. Everyone will see me.
“12:35 Eboricum stop.” The loudspeaker muttered.
Adrian looked around, and realizing that passengers were getting up to get off, he stood up as well. He left his seat and merged with the army as it made it's way towards the exit cart. Right before he got to the door, he spied an open seat and jumped into it. Finding himself faced to face with a woman covered in tar and feathers.
“Hi, my names Katie.” She said. From under the tar Adrian could see the shape of her breasts shudder slightly while she spoke. He positioned the iPad on his lap discreetly.
“I'm Adrian.” He replied.
“Pleasure to meet you.” She said. He noticed the muscles in her stomach as she leaned forward to speak to him. Adrian felt his head get knocked forward, and looked up to see a businessman rushing through the aisle with his elbows out.
“God, what is with those people?” Katie asked.
“Believe me, I know.” Adrian said. “And I have to make these people look good for a living.”
“Oh my god, you do P.R?” She asked. “That is so cool. What's it like trying to make these assholes look relatable.”
“You have no idea.” He replied. “The other day I had to meet with a client who told a reporter that, I quote, 'Maybe if the poor mothers find it so difficult to raise they're children, they should just shut their vagina's or buy a condom'. And now I have to explain to people why they should still buy the snack cakes his company produces. It's insanity.”
“I must be so interesting though, that kind of work.” She said.
“Well I do got that going for me.” He replied.
“But enough about me.” Adrian said, “Whats with the getup.”
“Oh, don't you remember.” Katie replied. “You did this to me.”
“What?” Adrian asked, astonished. “I did no such thing.”
“Sure you did, don't you remember, silly. We were at the harbor, and you accused me of aiding the British troops, and you called for the mob to tar and feather me.”
“No, thats impossible.” He replied.
“Nope.” She said.
“You're lying.” Adrian screamed. He jumped up from his seat and took off down the aisle. There's no way. He thought. I couldn't have. He rushed in the direction of the bathroom, listening as he heard Katie get up to follow. He charged down the carts, desperately trying to escape. Finally, he reached the sixth and final cart. A dead end. He turned around. And there was Katie, only she had removed he tar and feathers. Instead, she was dressed in an all leather ensemble. Black leather boots, black leather, thong, and a tiny black leather bra that just barely covered her nipples. In her mouth was a bright red ball gag strapped around her head.
“Get away from me!” Adrian shouted. “Go! Go! Leave me alone.”
“But isn't this what you want.” She muttered through the gag.
“No, no no!”. He tried to turn around, but she blocked his view in every direction.
“I don't want this!” He screamed. “I don't want this and I don't want you.”
Adrian felt his chest expanding with fear, and in a moment of instinct he lifted his arm behind his back, and sent his iPad crashing into Katie's face. The passenger screamed, Katie fell down, her teeth bouncing into the deep nooks and crevices surrounding the bases of the seats, her blood flowing through the canals of striped floor mats running the length of the aisle. Adrian jumped over his victim and continued towards the gate. Passengers were getting out of their seats now, some had already started after him. He entered the fifth cart, which had undoubtedly heard the noise but was still unclear enough about what was going on to let him through. He shoved through the mass of businessman that were getting on the train and burst out onto the station and the freezing wind. He rushed past the domain of the lamplight and out into the dead late night abyss.
Adrian awoke, sweating, and looked down at the iPad, which was fortunately covering his lap. He saw a message on the screen:
“New message from Katie Russel. Look, I'm sorry if that last message came off as awkward. I'm not good at this kind of thing, but I just wanted to let you know that I had a lot of fun with you, and I think you're a really cool person. And I would love to go out with you again this weekend.”
Adrian began the process of logging into Facebook again. He controlled his breathing. And told himself it would be all over soon enough. After what seemed like an eternity, he got to his inbox. He sat and briefly reflected on what he was about to do, then clicked the reply button as calmly as he could.
“Look. I'm really sorry, but even though I've had a wonderful time with you, I'm just so busy with work at the moment. I have a big case coming up and that means long hours in the office. I just don't think this will work out right now.”
With that, he blocked and unfriended Katie. After a few minutes of steady breathing he felt the train come to a stop. He looked at the time, it was half past two. He read the words “New Haven” on the stop and realized he had long slept through his intended destination. Oh well, he thought. He stood up and walked into the brisk New Haven air, and began walking towards what looked like the busier part of town in search of a hotel. He was all alone, stuck in an unfamiliar territory and with nobody to help him. Its better this way, he thought to himself.