My Tongue Is A Soldier

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Alicia is a mime. We went to the same high school. I used to see her on the train now and then on my work commute. Then she lost her paying job and now she’s there almost every day I ride. We don’t talk. We communicate the way we did across homeroom—body language, eye language. Neither of us was anyone’s friend then. I’m surprised she became a performer. As a mime, she’s a natural—she won’t break her silence for anything.

One afternoon, this guy we knew got on the train. I saw him before she did, coming across the platform—that swagger was unforgettable. He was a freshman when we were juniors, had an entourage, talked activism while the rest of us were ironing creases in our blue jeans. Alicia was in love with him. She never said, but I could tell in those huge doe eyes of hers. I’d pass her blinking up at him in the hallway, quickly forced aside by a bolder girl.

His name is Cyrus. I expected her to smile when she saw him; instead, she took her performance to the other end of the train. I watched Cyrus stare out at the passing cityscape, read the graffiti, scribble in the little black notebook gripped in his hand. Every day after, he was on the train when I got on and stayed on when I got off. I began to think he had nowhere to go. A couple of times we made eye contact, but it was as if he didn’t see me at all. I was okay with that, it was easier to observe him. Once, I sat behind him and looked at what he was writing reflected in the window. It had the shape of a poem. He would pause to soundlessly mouth the words, gesturing with his free hand, a pen caught between two fingers. “My tongue is a soldier,” was all I could read before the page shifted.

Alicia managed to avoid him for a couple of weeks, until this morning when she jerked away from the imaginary rope she had been tugging and backed right into him. We hadn’t seen him enter the car. I could tell by the look on his face that he recognized her and with a traveling glance over her plastered hair, whiteface and leotard, he dismissed her.

What happened next sent the crowd around them into an uproar. Alicia jumped up, wrapping her arms and legs around him, clamped her open mouth to his and would not let go no matter how much he tried to shake her, stumbling from one side of the car to the other. Riders moved out of the way, whooping, cheering her on. For all I know, they’re still wrestling around inside the train that way. I got off at Central.


Created: Jun 10, 2012

Tags: train, story, poet, mime, symbiote

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