|WE ARE THE BUFFALO
By Kaylynn Raschke “Are you sure this is it?” The cab driver points to a thin white sign, St. Cloud. Hardly visible, as it melds into the predawn sky of this frozen December morning. I make my way to the other side of the tracks. My feet crunch on a mixture of ice and glass. I light up a smoke and it rattles inside my lungs as I hawk a thick green loogie. It fizzles into the crust of snow and disappears. There’s not even a bench. Does anyone take the train anymore? Perhaps this is where I die? Freezing to death on a deserted track. I kick the neck of a broken bottle with the point of my boot. I can’t feel my toes. Should have worn warmer boots. I pull the collar higher around my ears while trying to not get snot on its fluffy black fur. I love this coat. I disappear in it. The woman at the vintage store said it was wolf but I know it’s dog. I go back to contemplating the advantages of freezing versus bleeding using a broken beer bottle when I hear the whistle blow. Just like in the movies, piercing, high and lonesome.
The train lurches forward as I take my seat up front. Except for a man in back, I’m alone. He didn’t even notice me. I take off my boots and tuck my feet inside my thick coat. I am as thin and white as the frost on the window. I scrape a circle to see out and watch it melt into my finger tip. No one knows I’m leaving. They won’t expect my call. We are a mutually disowned family at Christmas.
Mr. Tanther is an asshole. But it’s fast cash and I don’t mind getting naked even though the poses are excruciating and the studio is freezing. I bet he likes hard nipples. I remove the threadbare terry cloth robe and let it drop to the floor with a theatrical flourish. First he has me leaning on a stool.
“Open your legs please.” He fetches his prize, a real skeleton.
“No, no, embrace her like your lover.”
It’s a series of three minute warm ups, I can do this.
“Please, remove the stool.”
Fudge. He’s going to make me stand for the 10 minute pose.
He directs his students attention to my malnourished form. “Look at the way the skin stretches over the hip bones. Do you notice the shadow between the thighs and the jut of the pubic? Begin.”
He is pouring coffee, hot coffee with milk out of his thermos. Warm. I want to punch him but instead I pass out.
I’m a heap of bones on the floor. The severed head rests, a prize at a goth girls feet. Eve-ryone is furiously sketching as if I had only casually switched positions.
“Good, this is good!” Mr. Ass-fuck has his camera out. He’s taking pictures of me as I crawl for my robe.
“No, no, don’t move. Your times not up.”
Oh yes it is.
I live on cigarettes and embrace death like a lover. Fuck it’s freezing. Doesn’t this train have heat? I dissolve deeper into my dog fur when I hear the guy in back. Short staccato intakes of breath.
Kinda like laughter, only not. I know tears. His rhythm is matched by the cold metal on metal slicing us through the thin blue air.
I get up to pee and pass the lump of a man in his hard green canvas parka. That cannot be comfortable.
He picks his head up from the window and stares back at me.
He grumbles like he hasn’t talked in a while.
“What?” I say.
He grunts at me again. I stand there staring at him. Finally, in a deep slow voice, he says,
“What. The fuck. Do you want?”
“Oh, I need to pee.”
I turn and walk to the back of the train. It’s hard peeing with so many layers, I try and not let my coat touch the floor. Gross. Why am I talking to him? He is kind of cute in a pathetic grizzly bear sort of way. His blue eyes are rimmed red and he needs a tissue bad. I grab a wad on my way out.
I don’t know how to address him, so I stand and wait for him to turn around.
We resume our earlier conversation.
“Here.” I push the tissues in his direction.
He stares at me. Then grabs them and blows his nose like a moose on steroids.
It makes me laugh.
“Wow, that was impressive.
His fists are clenched so tight his knuckles have turned bright white. I want to touch him. So I do. I sit and put my hand on his. How long he can hold his breath? Little drops of tears spontaneously start rolling down my nose and now I’m the one needing a tissue.
We are alive in this pain. Breathing. Trying to hold on.
Talking to the window, he says “I don’t know how long I stood there. They waited for me to do something. She left a text. Sorry, so very sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt you. They fell in love. I should have seen it. Why didn’t I see it? I think I tried to kill myself.”
“Me too,” I say quietly to myself, for the first time ever.
“But, I decided to take the train instead.”
He unfurls his fist and reveals a calloused, sweaty palm. I could curl up and live in that hand.
The lumbering rhythm of the train leans me a little into him and him, a little into me.
Soon, we will part ways in Chicago, but for now, random towns are passed through. Stops are made and no one gets on. Barren corn fields and abandoned farms litter the forgotten landscape in this back alley of this endless America.
We are the buffalo. About the Author:
A teller of tales in many mediums, Kaylynn Raschke toured internationally in her one-woman play, “Lady and the Hoover,” wrote and directed two short films; femme horror “Sleep Tight, A Bed Time Story,” and a documentary “Give the Gift you Hate,” which premiered at the Big Apple Film Festival in New York. Her flash fiction piece “My Mighty M” won first place at the 2015 AWP Elephant Rock prose contest. She currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her man, his cat, and their adorable dachshund Miss Penny.