The Train Moves and the Fields Stand Still

Bugs and Doughnuts by Ashley Miller


The Train Moves and the Fields Stand Still

William Hayward

The train rolls along. I look out the window and see fields surrounded by fields, different shades of green and brown and yellow. Sometimes a train station appears, and sometimes we stop, but not often. The fields are bordered by wooden gates and farmhouses and occasional patches of trees and bushes. My heart hurts from nothing. My eyes hurt from seeing the same thing. When the train speeds through the blackness of a tunnel, I dream about what might be on the other side. I imagine deserts and rain forests. Beautiful women and men standing naked, trying to hitchhike on trains with their thumbs out. Giraffes dancing the conga and quoting Anton Chekov in sign language. When the train comes out of the tunnel, I see more fields.

The train journey is long. I’ve been on it for three hours and will be on it for five hours more. I’ve moved seats five times to stop people from sitting next to me, but now the train is nearly full and there isn’t anywhere else to go. I put my bag on the seat next to me, a last attempt to stop someone from sitting next to me, but in the two seats opposite, a young couple has sat down. The man is wearing a gray suit that’s too big for him and bifocal glasses that magnify his eyes, and the woman is pretty with curly black hair and dark skin and freckles. She has her hand on his lap. Her hand is curved up as if she’s waiting for him to hold it. He’s reading a newspaper but ignores it. She pulls a phone from her pocket with her free hand and scrolls through it. She does this for a few minutes and then puts it back in her pocket. They don’t speak at all.

On the other side of the aisle an old man has a table seat. He’s sitting by himself and has stretched his feet across two seats. His coat is tucked behind his head, and his tie is loose. He leans forward and tugs at the back of his shoes every few seconds and grunts. Sometimes he takes one shoe off and pulls at the back like he’s trying to stretch it out. The shoes are leather and look new. He continues to pull at it before slipping it back on and starting the process all over again.

I look out the window and see some small trees in the middle of a large field. They are dead and have no leaves, and the bark has peeled away from them so they are white in the sun like jagged bones sticking from the ground.

It depresses me again, looking out the window, so I start to read the back of the newspaper the bifocal man is holding.