In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough. --Ezra Pound

AS THE TRAINS pulled in and out of the Metro station, a girl, water dripping from her hair, face pink with the cold, came down the escalator to the platform. Pulling a pack of Marlboros out of her leather jacket, she looked around, moving from face to face, as men in suits and trenchcoats pushed past, each one avoiding her stare until he passed, then turning to look back before stepping into the blue and white subway car. Each one followed her gaze through the window, fantasizing, hoping to be the object of her large, dark searching eyes, until the train raced away, into the black tunnel.

Her eyes finally came to rest on the spot where a young man stood, waited, smoking. Standing close to the edge of the platform, he flicked a butt into the well as a train rushed past, inches away from his heavy workboot. He took a pack out of his soiled jeans pocket, her brand, the red box mangled and dirty. He tapped it twice, taking a cigarette by the burning end and sticking it between his lips. A match flared, lighting momentarily his hard chin and stubble no razor could wipe away. He didn't move towards, seeming to take her in as she paused to light her cigarette. She advanced, drew close to him, not enough to touch but enough to whisper over the roar of the trains. She took a long drag from her cigarette, perhaps said something. She smiled, her lips moved, but it was hard to tell whether they formed words.

He took her hands in his, the large, darkened, callused palms holding the small, immaculate hands. The thumbs rubbed the knuckles, moving around the cigarette that burned down between her fingers. Her deep red lips parted slightly, coming back together as she lifted her cigarette to them. She backed off slightly to exhale, a cloud of smoke wrapping them up and disappearing with the approach of the next train. She leaned forward, reaching her lips up towards his ear, her cheek brushing his. Her lips parted again, as she touched them to his cheek. She felt his shoulders, brawny and darkened by the sun, with her hands. The ash fell into the puddle behind him, as the smoke rose, the hand reaching up to caress his hair, brisly, short and black. He grasped her neck with his rough hands, grasped deep into the curly wet black mane that fell over her jacket down her back, and held her light frame with his glistening fingers, wet from running through her hair. Without denying, she jerked her face away from him. Holding her body close to his, she allowed him, invited him, to explore her cheeks, her jaw, the supple muscles of her neck, with his lips, his teeth, his sandpaper-rough cheeks. She flushed, either from embarrassment, or from that beard and those teeth on her delicate face. The ember glowed red as she drew on it, her eyes closed and her face red, smiling.

Her face betrayed any words she might use to defend herself from him. Holding her in his strong, violent arms, he controlled her completely. Even so, he lived for her whims; if she had asked for a peseta, or for his life, he had no choice but to give it. For one moment, nothing disturbed them; the commuters glanced that way with embarrassment before rushing off to the train. The crowd flowed around them in a frenzied dance, the clacking of the rails keeping time, the two principals defying the forces ripping, tearing them apart.

The embrace broke, as the river of passerby tugged them in separate directions. Her hands moved down his arms, past the elbows, moving across the palms to his fingers. These she clung to for several seconds, looking into his eyes. Hers began to well up, dribbling across her cheeks. Letting go, she snapped away from him, flowing into the current that boarded the next train. He followed her with his eyes, but didn't move. She stood by the window next to him, still crying, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. She felt him standing outside the window next to her, even as the train pulled away. He saw the end of the car pulling into the tunnel, the lights receding until they disappeared around a corner. He stared at the tunnel, his eyes trying to draw the car back. The next train rushed in behind him, its wheels screeching as it stopped momentarily. A soft pneumatic hiss, another, then it howled as it raced into the hole behind the girl. Train after train went by this way, but he couldn't take his eyes off the opening. He watched until the platform was empty and the final train pulled away. Only then did he pull the cigarette from behind his ear, light it, and walk slowly towards the escalator. He stepped on it, and it carried him up, the smoke lingering momentarily behind, as he rose into the rain.