Cycles of Arrival

by Jake Reynolds

Before I leave, I hook my thumb in sock elastic and slip it down round the heel, then unpeel the dim film, foggy and translucent, of a blister plaster. I smooth it down, feel the calm and soothing of the simple ritual. I pull my shoelaces through new eyelets, then hold them taut like I’m riding a horse through a street, or choking a man to death from behind.

I slide my desk out, reach for the neon block of sticky notes, run my finger like an adhesive over the last crumbs of toast.

stop thinking like this;
in three hours you will arrive,
shout I have arrived!

I am in a constant cycle of arriving; even when I leave I just arrive with more heaviness in a place I don’t take pleasure in recalling. A bored voice calls and echoes off the walls of the train station. Impatient, I slip my ticket into a machine’s lips. The flood of light when the barriers swing open is like heaven post-eclipse. I should be feeling happier than this.

There are things I should do, and things I have not yet done. Often the two collapse into the same pile, and perhaps I should do something about that. Perhaps I should: meaning I have not. I buy a sandwich in the few minutes I have spare, and don’t care to look closer. Ham. I hand it to the nearest woman I see with legs attempting 2D.

I sit, close my eyes,
silently call the seat home
for the next two hours,
feel power, smell sour coffee,
almost see a cheek to kiss.

I notice that in the fugue between two shouldering stations, complacent in their ten-minute rail distance, the duffle-coated snuffling girl who sits diagonally across from me turns out to be, beneath her hood, a friend I thought long-gone.

Where are you going?
I have seconds to condense
the world into one—

I make pleasantries, I tell her I am going to see a friend and no she wouldn’t know her. Friend is not the word, I say, but only to myself in monologue. The discourse of this— what is this?— the discourse of this relationship of closeness is a series of barriers I am constantly arriving at. Ad infinitum. Ad infinitum so that no matter how many hurdles I hurtle over, there will be a white-barred horizon as far as I can see. I hunger for that sandwich. The word friend gets lodged in my head. It provokes me, tells me how wrong I am, how disrespectful my arrival at that conclusion has been, how this always has been and will be an underestimation of the situation.

Tighten Up was on,
pollen count high, I saw her,
my sinuses purged—

Once she leaves, I try to read After Me Comes The Flood but it just makes everything so uncanny that the train seat fabric becomes little but a nasty habit scrawled out in crayon. Music doesn’t help; I can’t keep play on.

Every moment, I grow closer to arrival. And with every minute I arrive hovering over new ground, new forest, new weeds, new trees, new steel with graffiti creeping over it like a dream. I leave and arrive all at once. I check my watch four times in a row. I chase a stray thought and, while stationary at Thetford, make Google define the word tender. I ask myself a vague question about tenderness and grief, then loss, then if it will ever be acceptable to appreciate the mist of someone missed while a neck is being kissed.

I creep closer, without even knowing. I am arriving. I am arriving for the first and last time. Eventually the train stops.

I never shouted.
Does anyone really scream
in announcement of their arrival?

She looks different every time but still so obviously and clearly herself, which is a thing that I realise excites me as I arrive harder with each step, like I have surrendered to impact as, with eyes that say we’ll say no more, but I am so sorry, my face crashes into the windbreak of her shoulder.