I don’t know why, how, where or when but I found myself on a train, no, I don’t know how, why, where or when but I was on a train and sitting across from me was a female person, a woman, dark and plump. Whistling and rattling through the night a sailor at her side joshed and flirted. He got out at – was it Crewkerne? and I had her to my self. We drew down the corridor blinds and lay together on the narrow, tufty bench.
“Careful, she said, “I’ve got a metal plate” And through her finery I felt it at the base of her spine.
Now comes the puzzling part. In our embrace, as far as it went, I overshot the station at which I was meant to change trains. She went on and I went back to…? As I think about it now, writing this, it isn’t a puzzle at all. I will have got the next train back to Taunton, the fork in the mainline west. She will have gone on perhaps to Torquay, with the palm trees, on the south coast, think Florida.
Whatever happened on the train I must have passed her the address of the friends I was visiting. I got a card from her and phoned her from a call box. We arranged to meet in the village pub. She drank short, perfumed, alcoholic drinks and I took her back past the sheep dip and the rough grass to the caravan by my friend’s house and did that thing we hadn’t quite done on the train. Afterwards she sat on the edge of the fold-down bed, her arms up tying her hair, the hideous curtain showing behind her and slipped me a gift,
“Some woman will be lucky to find you. Strong but gentle” I swallowed the honey and grinned.
Her taxi arrived and it was clear there would be no sequel. But there was. About six months after the blessed perfumes of our caravan crosslegger I had paid work in her part of the country marshalling cars at the big show the farming folk hold. It was a misty late afternoon and I was checking numbers and drifting with the crowd when out of the gloom about twenty yards off her form, pregnant, came clear. She was with a husky chap with a stick. I stopped to be sure and she paused and turned her head, gave me a wide smile and trotted away after her man. I let it sink in.
And I don’t know why it is but even now years afterwards I have the impression, fighting off the net curtains of confusion descended on my head, that there was a postcard written in fast slanting black ink, about news, hidden in a box, that I was in some way pursued, that there was an issue between us I shrugged or shirked, that I’d like to name now my son Sam if he hears.