On Monday, I wondered if maybe he was punching the boy to the rhythm of the train’s syncopated beat. The boy always wore dark clothes, so I called him the crow. He was a bit of a fat crow.
And on that day, he wasn’t doing so well. His eye was dark and swollen, but the blows kept coming. The aggressor was taller, fitter, and better-looking. The aggressor had knuckles like rivets.
I couldn’t think of any animals to describe the aggressor, so he was just the guy.On Tuesday, the crow sat by the window.
The guy gave him looks, but the crow looked away, because he knew his place now. The guy wasn’t pleased, so he took the crow’s bag and chucked it out of the train. The crow didn’t protest.
The guy got off at his stop, with the friends who cheered him on. The crow wept alone. I watched him, but only in glances. I had a smartphone to deal with.On Wednesday, the guy wasn’t there.
The crow sat on a different seat on that day. That put him right in front of me. When I looked up from my phone, he was staring straight at me. I looked back down at the smartphone.
My stop comes before his, and when I got up, I realised that he hadn’t been staring at me. He had been staring through me.On Thursday, the guy slapped the crow several times.
It was all a little game, actually. The guy would say something, and the crow had to quickly say if it was true or false.
If the crow was wrong, or if he didn’t answer soon enough, he got slapped. If he was right, he just got spat on. I casually went to the far end, and pretended not to notice.
Smartphones really help with letting you pretend not to notice.On Friday, the guy was absent again. The crow had his face buried in his hands. His body shook. He snivelled.
There was no one else, just the two of us. So I worked up some courage and went up to him and touched his shoulder.
He jerked away, and looked at me—squinted at me—for a while as his brain tried to calm him down. I asked him if he’s okay. And he still looked at me like that.
His face turned red, and his forehead creased.“Nothing’s fucking okay, so fuck off,” he said, but his voice was so choked, he could barely say it all.I asked why didn’t just take another train.
I asked why he didn’t stand up for himself. I asked if he was a masochist. I was getting a little carried away there.He heard me out plainly and then got up, and went to the open door.
The wind was ripping at his clothes. It was dark out. He was hanging by a hand that was prepared to let go.I watched. At any moment now, he was going to be dead, I thought.
The train slowed down to a crawl, and eventually stopped at a station. He let go of his hand and jumped off, onto the platform.On Saturday, he wasn’t there anymore.
The guy asked me where he was. I told him I didn’t know. Then, the punches came flying at me.