Eighty Eight
Meridith Gresher

I, the leper from Tuesday, catch the final night train to Zurich;
the whistle stops, a copper penny against the sooted snow.
I sit with my fingers swaddled in mittens to keep out the cold
intruders, a couple, smoking, staring at my familiarity, soaking
their already tar-stained teeth with coffee, black. She, forty-ish,

holding an unfiltered cigarette in her veined, left hand, stoops over
her man like a coffee scoop, as if she might whisk him away,
a Sabine man, young and withering. She caresses his nicotined
hair before pulling out his chair. Modern love: they cross the dining
car’s threshold, fingers entwined with babies breath and birdseed.

A woman travels solo, her mouth a parrot’s. Between burps,
she croons to music playing on a fat man’s mp3. She, sombulent, with
the energy of the train, sits parallel to the fat man on a banquette,
a small, built-in table between the two, the windows’ frost attacks
their backs. She twists her shoulder-length hair around her hang-

nails and splitting calluses, blossoming as bands of dotted swiss. The fat
man’s greasy fingers seek a common refuge turning up the volume,
ever so slightly, as the woman bleats En Saga, Opus 9, Sibelius,
with eyes half-closed. He licks a puffed finger. He moves it toward
her bird mouth, relishing the thought of his digit on her tongue

dipping greedily into her, hopeful she is too drunk to mind his cheap
aftershave, his clammy skin and too large lips. He thinks of his private car,
the smallness of the bed, the largeness of his hairless body as his fingers
meet her crooked mouth. She startles at the feel of flesh upon her lips.
Opening wide her eyes, she gasps, as he plunges inside.

She shrinks against the tweedy banquette, biting into a corner of
his sugary flesh. She stumbles to a remote spot in the club car, shedding
his fingerprints with a shot of gin from her hip flask. The fat man retreats,
scans the car and arrests my eyes. He searches my disapproval, thin
in his latent attempt at decorum. I hate him for wanting my lies;

I show him. He finds my mittened hands instead. He knows
I have shed my fingerprints, my keys to the world, all eighty eight.
Tonight, it is one year, one month since that Tuesday. Every day,
every night is that Tuesday, the house fire, the one night I caught
the early train for Zurich, my home.

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