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On the Tracks

Val Eden boards a train in New York City bound for San Francisco, where she plans to meet up with her friend and emotional spirit-guide Dana Holmes. On her three day trip, she reflects on her past travels with Dana, as well as the struggles she faced being too smart for her friends…

Deep Pink And Some Grey

"You’re not holding it right…"

He took the cigarette back from me.

"It’s in the wrist. And you have to bring the cigarette to your mouth, not the other way around."

He laughed at his own joke and took a long drag. He looked away as he blew out the smoke, wanting me to observe, to swoon.

I waited. He stepped closer and offered the cigarette back to me. As I took it, he held my hand and placed the cigarette near the tips of my fingers.

"That’s where a girl should hold it."


"It looks sexier."

My eyes narrowed instinctively. I was learning how to smoke to avoid sexual stereotyping and here was this guy pushing me into it. Any argument would be wasted on him. Demonstration was my best option.

I held the cigarette between my thumb and index finger like a junkie in the middle of winter. I craned my neck down and inhaled. He looked confused. I leaned in to his ear, exhaled down his back and whispered,

“Isn’t this sexy?”

I expected him to move away, or at least to be embarrassed. I expected to have to avoid eye contact with him for the rest of the year. But instead, he put a hand on my waist.
Now, I was embarrassed; I moved away.


He was concerned. He held his hands up as if to surrender, or show me he wasn’t doing anything. He looked at me for any signs of what had gone wrong. I was just pacing. It was a narrow space behind a building. On one end was a dumpster which no one could stand next to. The other side opened to the road.

He was hot. No one saw it because he spoke in a painfully deliberate manner and made sarcastic comments so subtle that they mostly went unnoticed. But he had a good body. And he knew Photoshop.

"What?" he asked again.

“You have to ask before you can do things like that.”

He did an elaborate shrug.

“You were basically asking for it when you… when you… “

His hand went up to the side of his neck I had leaned into. He looked at his feet. In a calmer voice, he continued. “When you asked if you were sexy.”

I decided to try the arguments. “You can’t just objectif-“

He cut me off. “You should flick it.”


“It’s going to burn you.”

The cigarette was still between my fingers. I took a drag and crushed the stub against the wall.

"Rookie mistake." he said. I looked at him. This was that hidden humor. He was calling us both rookies. It was, in his way, an apology.

"Pick me up at eight tomorrow."

And I walked away in a cloud of smoke.

Virgin Monologues

Almost five seconds had passed before I realized I had been asked a question. I looked at my friend’s face; an expression of concern and irritation on it. She was leaning forward with her hands folded and the centres of her eyebrows arched high. My failure to answer had been answer enough. I rolled my eyes.

"Please." I swept my hand between us to cut her off. "I don’t want your lecture right now."

The concern from her face vanished, leaving only irritation. That’s how I preferred my friends, anyway.

"Fine." She straightened up in the chair, feigning relief that she didn’t have to mother me, but stirred her drink a little too vigorously to be just ‘fine’.

I put on sunglasses and continued my inspection of a woman sitting two tables down.

"She’s wearing stockings."

"We’re not talking about anything else until you tell me how your date went last night."

"She’s not in corporate, and it doesn’t look like a uniform. She wore those by choice."


"And she’s alone… Not expecting anyone, either. And yet, stockings."

"Was he really that bad?"

I obliged my friend with eye contact. She was wearing the wrong lip gloss, which I only knew because she had explained the criteria to me last week. Her phone had vibrated twice during our conversation and she hadn’t even checked to see who it was. The ice had all but melted in her glass. She stopped tucking fly-away strands of hair behind her ear. This was the most attention I had ever recieved from her. She may just understand…

"I had a transformation last night."

"Well, of course you did! You’re a woman now!"

"Yes! Wait… That’s not… We didn’t have sex last night."

"Why not?!"

"He called me fat."


"Well, he called Lena Dunham fat. And you know how I…"

"Oh my god."

"… feel about her and he completely… "


"… disregarded my opinions and…"

"We’re not talking about this."

She swept the conversation shut. I glared at her. She ignored my indignation as she scrolled down her notifications. The date was her idea. She had come here wanting to be thanked. Instead, she had been plunged into disappointment and denied validation. Her patience with me was running out and she reminded herself never to do anything nice for me again.

Without looking up from her phone, she said. “This heat is killing me, let’s go to the mall.” “Let’s. I need to buy some stockings.”

Femmenist Fatale

She was still wearing her pink dress when she realized she wanted to die. The ceiling fan creaked relentlessly as the sweat trickled down her neck. Tonight’s rejection was inevitable.

“Fuck him.” she spat.

Her arms were sprawled on the bed, and half her face was planted across a pillow. The tear stains had already evaporated in the heat. Silently, the playlist changed and Velvet Underground began to play.

She pushed herself up and undressed. Her clothes fell in a delicate heap next to her feet. She bared herself to the mirror, and brutally examined the girl staring back.
“A woman.” she corrected herself. “You’re a woman.”

She walked closer until only her nipples touched the cool glass.She closed her eyes and felt the shocks run deep within her. Her breath was caught inside, escaping in short bursts whenever her chest would allow it. Her abdomen twitched.

She stepped away, painfully aware of the stinging heat, the moist stagnation in the air. Her finger tips gently traced the smeared mascara, as if it were a battle wound. She picked up her pink dress and wiped her face. Red and black smudges tainted the flowery print. Some stains would never leave.

From across the room, her phone beeped, begging to be charged. Still in her heels, she loftily walked towards it, and held the black screen familiarly in her hand. It reflected her long face framed softly by dark curls. She opened the camera and pointed it towards her.

Black heels, black hair, and creamy skin in between.

She admired the picture and realized what a fool she had been all her life. The most powerful tool she owned had been forced into dormancy. The suburban lifestyle she used to covet was just a farce to tie her down. But now… Now she knew better. She was a woman. Independent, fierce, vengeful.


Pablo Neruda

Morning. Santiago.

The beautiful sunrise does nothing to soothe him. With his eyes still closed he sits up in bed. Disturbed sleep is a special rung in hell. The birds outside seem cynically chirpy; his head feels devastatingly split. 

These are the days which unearth buried demons mainly because they could overpower him. 

Just as he contemplates going back to bed, she enters with tea and breakfast. The hustle of her footsteps, the smell of soap and fresh flowers, and the aftertaste of lipstick on his mouth as she breaks away from a quick kiss remind him why he does what he does.

The birds don’t sound cynical anymore.

"To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life."


Evening. Holcomb.

He adjusts his glasses, lending a dramatic pause to his punchline. Everyone leans in, enticed; and throws their head back in expected laughter as he finishes. He scans their ecstatic faces, gauging their reaction. The last one he looks at is hers. She is standing at the back of the room, a wine glass held loosely in one hand, her eyes waiting to catch his. They hold their gaze. Her dimples deepen. His confidence soars. He plans his next anecdote.

"We don’t belong to each other. She’s an independent and so am I."

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Night. New York.

He sits at the edge of the bed; his feet crossed, his arms propped on the sides, supporting him. His head is bent. He rubs his fingers, tracing the ink stains. Those never wash away.

His palm sweeps across to her side of the bed. It’s cold and clean. The air is dull, stagnant. The stillness bothers him. He hasn’t smelled perfume in months. He misses the sound her dress would make as she would move around the house, singing her sentences…

He leans back instinctively, eyes closed, eyebrows arched. As he looks up, his shoulders tense. 

Overwhelming nostalgia can be fatal.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Elizabeth I

Afternoon. London.

She stands before her people, unsmiling.  Her hands rest on the parapet; her back is straight.  The ferocity in her eyes is equal to the crown. She garners its power; the regalia is merely an embellishment. England was her Kingdom.  She made it her Empire.

"I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people."


Pre-dawn. Mexico.

The gun is still warm in his hand. The smoke hasn’t reached him yet. She is dead. She was dead. Was she here? The glass rolls out of her hand. Blood rises out of the singed edges of the entry wound. 

He feels his insides for the first time in weeks. They want to escape. He bends forward and finds himself supine on the floor. His head bursts with pain.

A soft voice from across the room tells him she is gone. The voice instructs him to leave, to run. He wants to save her, but he is told that it cannot be done. He sees the blood travelling through her dress.

He stands up and walks out. The door is ajar. The stench of burnt flesh and wasted gunpowder follows him. So does the voice.

He knows the voice. He has heard it before. It’s the only one he trusts.

"Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape."

Roger Ebert

Evening. Chicago.

He hates the smell of popcorn. Why anyone would want to taste things while watching a movie was beyond him. There is enough flavor on the screen.

They ask him if he’s comfortable and he replies with a pained smile. He wants the black, flashing countdown. He wants the actors entertaining him. The director’s vision will be his for the next 98 minutes.

The lights dim, the crowd hushes down, and the adventure begins.

"We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds."