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The BART Ride to Berkeley

[after Cheever’s Five-Forty-Eight]

Will saw the boy from the smoking lounge. He was across the street, huddled in the doorway of the closed dry cleaners. The boy hugged a red rain poncho to his body, and he stared at the door of the Irish pub.

Will worked at Smitty’s one day a week. He had worked here fulltime before grad school. Now he tended bar on Sundays, great during football season. But March was here. The only people at the bar were middle-aged redheads and raspy old men who liked Smitty’s for the smoking lounge—a glassed-off, indoor porch at the front of the bar. The smoking lounge had a wall of TVs opposite a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that open to the street. At Smitty’s, you could drink and chainsmoke and watch ESPN highlights, a rarity in San Francisco. Presently the room had only one big window sliced open to let the smoke slip out; the rest were closed against the pounding gray rain that would otherwise splash and dampen the smokers, their ashtrays, their moods. Will had brought his shift drink into the smoking lounge, lit up, and saw the boy from the sliver of open window.

He chugged his beer and stubbed out his cigarette, said goodbye to the regulars in the lounge, and put on his Gore-Tex. He glanced once more out the sliver of window. Could it really be that boy? It couldn’t be.

Will looked at his phone. He still had time to catch the six-thirty-four Richmond BART and avoid the MacArthur transfer. It was always lovely to get the rare direct train home.

He stepped outside, stood in the bar’s threshold. Smoke drifted from the cracked lounge window. Gray puffs floated past him under the awning and disappeared in the rain.

The boy startled when they made eye contact. He hadn’t expected his bright red poncho to be a beacon of his presence. His mouth opened a bit, but he didn’t wave. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, presumably a greeting, but Will couldn’t hear him over the rain.

Will flipped his hood on, yanked the drawstrings taut, and jumped into the downpour. It really was the boy. Best to pretend he didn’t see him, didn’t recognize him.

            The rain fell in torrents. It was ice cold. Weather report said it was likely to hail.

The boy yelled again, but Will continued his feigned deafness. He proceeded down 24th Street, skipped ahead into a light jog. His speed made him wetter, but better wet and alone than stuck talking to that idiot boy. Besides, the long BART ride to Berkeley would dry him before he had to make the next dash from station to home. Had the boy been waiting for him? Could it be a coincidence that he was across the street from Smitty’s on a Sunday, right when Will left work. Either way, he didn’t want to engage.

Will risked a glance over his shoulder and saw the red-slickered body was still across the street, half a block behind, and following him.

            Will reached the corner of 24th and Mission. He stood at one entrance to the BART station. Catty corner across the street the boy ran to the top of the other BART station entrance. Will worried about their eventual meeting underground. He descended a few steps, out of sight from the street and not yet visible in the station, and hesitated going further. He ran back up the stairs and looked at the other entrance. The boy was gone. Will bolted to the bar halfway down the block, showed his ID quickly to a leather-vested man with a handlebar mustache, and went into the dark barroom.

This was a classic motorcycle dive. The black-painted interior was accented with band stickers and Hello, My name is graffiti tags layered on the walls. The bartender had Willie Nelson braids. The regulars at the bar sported gray beards, bandanas. The only woman in the place had two gold canines. One man had a small cross tattooed at the edge of his eye. The music was violently loud. It was the Misfits.

The bartender studied Will for a second, frowned. “What’ll it be?”

He ordered a High Life. He had shaken the boy. Will was dubious the boy had seen him come in here, but even if he had there was the bouncer to stop him. Will blanked on the boy’s name—Chase? Brick?—but he remembered distinctly his age. He was 19. Maybe 20 now.

Will despised this place and its all-punk jukebox. It smelled sweetly of stale beer, a smell he resented. It was the smell of his toiling, of his failing, of his working-class history. Will was now 33, an adjunct writing professor at a low-tier Catholic college. He couldn’t pay his student loans without wasting a day in the city at Smitty’s, serving overpriced drafts to unhappy men who cheered for blood on the field between every commercial break. Will leered at the braided bartender as the man stalked back to the regulars. This man was king of his domain, satisfied to lean on the stain-chipped bar, to spend each night of his life popping bottle caps off cheap beers and act as host to a crew of barely functional alcoholics. One of the regulars let out a loud, rippling fart, and the whole place, save Will, broke out in piratical laughter.

Will was sure to miss the six-thirty-four train now, but he could sit in this dank room with these disgusting men, do the crossword on his phone, and wait out… Bryce.

That was his name. Bryce.

     Bryce had come to the second class meeting of Points of View, the course Will taught over the summer. The boy showed up late and unregistered. He wore incomprehensible clothes: a Giants beanie, a flannel unbuttoned over an X-Men tank top, and cargo shorts. His wool-socked feet were shoved into plastic Birkenstocks. Will had never softened to the sartorial oddities of the Bay Area. At every outing to Dolores Park, Will cringed at the adults dressed like toddlers. Tutus, rainbow suspenders, blinder shade sunglasses, capes, overalls, glitter. So much glitter. He despised the fetish gear of the gay bars, too—leather crowns, harnesses, chaps, and colorful jockstraps from ridiculous sounding brands like Pump! or Nasty Pig. He had been in the Bay Area for a decade but he remained, culturally, a New Englander. Will had traced his lineage back to the Revolutionary War, and he secretly prided himself in his family’s colonial history. He was a WASP through and through, and there were sumptuary laws that Will abided, as his ancestors did. Will would have liked to teach students who similarly felt beholden to some sort of cultural standard, but he had looked at this boy in socks and sandals and thought he was doomed to always have undeserving students.

In that second class of the summer, Will had his students free-write about a mistake they made. He gave them twenty minutes. The students scribbled in notebooks, and Will played Tetris on his phone. He looked up and saw Bryce staring at his notebook, his pencil still.

“For next class,” Will told the students, “please edit your free-writing into a letter to your past self. It will be an instruction manual in how not to make your mistake.”

He then dismissed them fifteen minutes early.

     “Professor Cabot?” The boy lingered, held Will in the room. “I couldn’t think of any mistakes.”

Was he being arrogant or egotistical, or was he just dim? Will could name several mistakes the boy had made today alone. The outfit. Then of course the tardiness. His absence last week. Or that he showed up to this class without even registering. Will wanted to leave the classroom, to find a patio somewhere, to drink a glass of wine and read a book.

But he sat down with the boy and teased out a story from him. Eventually Bryce wrote a few pages about buying a lava lamp for a sophomore in his dorm. The sophomore had received the lava lamp as an anonymous gift and placed it in his room, and when Bryce told him it was from him, the sophomore asked why.

            “We got high once, and he kissed me,” Bryce told Will. “I thought he would like a lava lamp.”

            Bryce had confessed to this sophomore his amorous feelings, and the sophomore said he wasn’t gay, told Bryce not to tell anyone about the kiss, then he closed the door on his face. The next day Bryce saw the lava lamp smashed and scattered on the sidewalk in front of their dormitory.

     “Boys are terrible,” Will said. “Now your assignment is to edit this piece into a letter yourself, instructing you not to buy gifts for a closet case.”

The boy never showed up to Will’s class again.

            Later that summer, after classes were over, an anonymous torso on Grindr asked Will if he wanted a blow job. He was at home, drinking a second martini. His partner was asleep in the bedroom. He flirted with the torso, asked it to send more pictures. A series of body, dick and butt pics led up to the young and vacant face of Bryce.

     Will had never slept with a student, but Bryce messaged that he was not returning to the school in the fall, that he was transferring to a pre-nursing program at a different college down the peninsula, and he was moving in a week, and that he was home alone now if Will wanted to come over. Will was horny and drunk, so he Ubered to Bryce’s parents’ house.

They fucked in Bryce’s childhood bedroom. The walls were pasted with anime posters and the room stank of Curve cologne. Bryce had a TV in his bedroom and he showed Will his many video game consoles. His closet was open, and the inside of the closet door was draped with rows of flat-brimmed baseball caps. Masculine drag, Will thought. Typical of the age. Bryce put on a red Niners cap and said, “Don’t I look cute in this?” He wore nothing else. Then he hopped on the bed and got on all fours, hat still on, proffering himself to his professor for a second round.

            The weeks that followed were annoying. Bryce sent many unanswered Grindr messages, a slew of hey’s and hiya’s. He sent emails to Will’s school address, seemingly unaware that he was getting no response. The boy wrote continuously of his interests, his video games, his rambling thoughts on TV shows, and ended every email with “And how’s your day going?” None of the emails was explicit or solicitous, nothing like the wretched things the boy had demanded in his bedroom.

“Sit on my chest and call me a dirty pig slut.”

“Slap me, slap your pussy bitch boy.”

“I’m your dirty cum dumpster, fill me, breed me, get me pregnant.”

Will was shocked at the rich sexual lexicon of a student he had seen as a dullard, especially a boy so young, as if all the energy he should have spent on schoolwork he instead spent on porn sites, in kink chat rooms, and presumably with real-life men who encouraged this erotic vernacular. But Will couldn’t believe that Bryce, at 19, was genuinely into all of this. Bryce had a pleather pup mask, and he asked Will if he should wear it while they fucked. Will declined, and the boy smiled blankly. This wasn’t real. It was an identity he was trying out, the way other college kids join noise bands or become Francophiles or register as Democratic Socialists. That night in Bryce’s bedroom, while Will dressed and felt the first fleeting pangs of regret, the boy played a terrible electronic song on a Bluetooth speaker. Will asked him what it was, and the boy said, flirting, “Don’t laugh at me, but it’s from My Little Pony—I’m a Brony.” Again, Will saw the boy as an empty vessel trying to fill himself with some niche meme culture he found on Tumblr or Reddit.

As Will was leaving that night, Bryce stood in the foyer in a stained terry-cloth bathrobe, and said, “Next time don’t shower so I can taste the stink of your pits.” The boy had been shy in the one class he’d sat through, but he was so forward here that Will was afraid to tell him there would be no next time. Instead, Will only said, “Right,” then he left.

Yet the Grindr messages and emails continued to come, and Will had hoped the boy would understand that he was being ghosted. The proper response to ghosting, Will thought, was to move the fuck on. But the boy persisted, and Will blocked him on the app and marked his email address as spam, putting the boy in the self-erasing trash. The fall semester started and ended, and the teacher had practically forgotten the student until he showed up outside of Smitty’s today.


Will nursed his third High Life.

He finished the Sunday crossword, and he scrolled through Instagram and Twitter, depleting his phone’s battery. The guy with the face tattoo told the bartender he used to know some asshole who beat his wife and went to jail and joined a white supremacy gang. “He got an extra fifteen years for stabbing his cellmate.” His cellmate had been black. Bar crowd census was the guy was an idiot, but Will couldn’t decipher if they believed this because he committed the crimes or got caught.

It was hailing now, and Will saw through the half-moon window that the street was empty of people. The hail hit the sidewalks and drummed the tops of cars. Will paid his tab and dashed out the bar for BART.

He was careful in the station, keeping an eye out for the red slicker. He didn’t fully understand why the boy was after him. He hadn’t seemed the type to hold a grudge. Will thought of the young man who had tossed Bryce’s affectionate lava lamp out a window, and the dead calm in which the boy had told him that story. There had been a small, lingering sadness, but nothing of ire or rage. He had also seemed oblivious to Will ignoring him. But for some reason he came to the city, to the Mission, and waited in the cold rain outside of Will’s Sunday job. How had he known where Will was?

The platform was crowded with wet commuters. A train was thankfully a minute away, and Will slunk behind a tiled pillar, leaned against it. The train came, and he got on, felt the warmth return to him after he sat in the back of the car. The doors closed, and relief filled Will’s lungs.

Will surveyed the car. No sign of Bryce. But farther down the car sat a couple Will had known in his partying days, back before grad school when he would go out until 6 a.m. and accepted key bumps off any stranger at the perimeters of a dance floor. Didn’t matter what he was snorting—coke, molly, ketamine. Will always accepted because he was in his 20s and he felt he would live forever. This couple, Adam and Steve, couldn’t see Will in his dark corner, he was sure. He wanted to keep it that way. Will was in no mood to reminisce about a time when he had been an unencumbered embarrassment, a flopping pitiable mess. Adam and Steve were Will’s first threesome. He had once obsessed over Steve and wanted to usurp Adam’s place, and now he regretted every moment of it.

He was sure Adam had just made eye contact with him, gave him a look that said, Will, is that you? when the door opened from the next car over and a wet red slicker stood over him.

“Mr. Cabot, finally,” the boy said. “We really need to talk.”

He sat down, and his slicker ballooned as he took the aisle seat. Will looked at Adam, who had just had that flicker of recognition, in hopes that now he would call out to him, to ask him to come join them, to catch up. Though he didn’t need to catch up, he still knew what they were doing, saw it on social media. All the same shit. The same parties, the same drugs, only on a global scale. Adam a hotshot DJ. They were constantly in Berlin or Barcelona, dancing in abandoned nuclear power plants and Visigoth churches. He wanted them to desperately come over and gloat about their adventures abroad, but they shifted and looked at their phones, as if they had not seen him. And now Bryce trapped Will in the window seat.

“Bryce,” Will said. He tried to be calm. “How are you?”

“Are you Christian, Mr. Cabot?” the boy asked.

Will squared his shoulders against the train window and looked at Bryce straight on. The boy was frazzled, with dark bags under his eyes. His hood was half-on, but Will could see that the ear closer to him was cauliflowered. He had a split lip and bruises on his neck.

“I’m a nonbeliever,” he said. The train pulled into Montgomery Station. He started to stand but Bryce said, “Sit down,” and grabbed Will’s belt, yanked him back.

“That was my stop,” Will said.

“Don’t lie to me,” Bryce said. “Because under my slicker here I have a Ruger LCP pointed at your belly.” Will stared at him, unsure of whether or not to take the boy seriously. Bryce added with a tone of explanation, “I got it at a gun show at the Cow Palace last month. It’s semi-automatic, light and sweet, but, as I’ve learned at the range, the trigger sticks.”

Bryce lifted the rain slicker briefly to show a small, glinty pistol with, oddly, a purple handle.

“My boyfriend bought it for me,” he added. “He got me the Lady Lilac grip because he says I’m his lady, but not to tell anyone. I know you told me not to go after closet cases anymore, Mr. Cabot, but Jackson is special.”

Will was speechless and wet, and he had a full bladder from beer after beer in the motorcycle dive. He stared ahead, afraid to look at Bryce or his lady gun, afraid to move at all. He could see Steve and Adam, this couple he had been intimate with, willfully ignoring his presence. The last time he had seen Adam and Steve, with their ridiculous names and ridiculous lives, Will had been a little drunk, in his last semester of grad school, and he told them “I’m taking my life seriously now,” to which Adam had asked, “And we aren’t?” Will wished now that he hadn’t answered that question. He had railed against their hedonism as something fun and interesting for your 20s. “Jesus, come on, you’re pushing 40,” Will had said then. “Do you really want to be the old guys at the club cruising for young, impressionable boys?”

Bryce nudged the blunt tip of the gun against Will’s stomach. The boy was annoyed. “Are you even listening to me? I’m trying to tell you about my boyfriend, see? He swore me to secrecy but I’m not worried you’ll tell anyone.”

Will felt the nudge again, felt the distinct tip of the pistol. He imagined the worst: the bang, the gaping hole in his stomach, the spread of blood. He thought of bleeding out.

Bryce pushed the tip of his purple handgun into Will’s gut again, and this time he added, “Boom!” Will’s bladder released. Urine began to puddle his seat.

Everything in the car was already wet. His pants were already wet. Now they were just a little warmer. Bryce noticed, however, and giggled. The boy holds my mortality in his hands, Will thought, and he giggles?

“Mr. Cabot,” he whispered at Will’s neck, “I didn’t know you were into watersports.”

“Why are you doing this?” Will’s voice was small, his throat dry.

“I’ve been trying to tell you.” They were under the Bay now, and Bryce put a hand on Will’s piss-warm thigh. “Mr. Cabbot, I’ve been trying to email you, to message you, to tell you that I don’t think we should have done what we did. I don’t think you’re a very good person, or at least Jackson tells me I shouldn’t have slept with you because you’re a disgusting Ivory Tower Jew, but I told him I don’t think Mr. Cabot is Jewish. He teaches at a Catholic school.”

Will sat with his back straight against the seat. He smelled of damp rain and ammonia. The boy stroked his wet thigh. In the other hand, he tapped a tent into the slicker with the tip of the gun.

“You’re not Jewish, are you, Mr. Cabot?”

He kept looking at the tent of red hovering above Bryce’s lap. He was making calculations—not of escape, but of survival. How would he survive this? He licked his lips and opened his mouth, let out a light rasp and closed his mouth before trying again.

“I am not Jewish,” Will said. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Jackson told me all about the Jews who run the world, Mr. Cabot. They’re the ones responsible for the migrant caravans and the Deep State. It’s something I’ve been learning about. I’ve never really thought much of it, but Jackson told me that this is the most important thing happening in our nation today, that we are losing our country to immigrants and Jews.”

Will breathed deep and asked, “And you believe this, Bryce?”

“I’m not really sure what to believe,” he said. “I believe in love. Jackson and I love each other so much, and he can get jealous, so I want to prove to him that I love him and that there’s no reason to be jealous. I’ll believe what Jackson wants me to believe, if he keeps loving me. That’s why I think that you and I need to talk, but I don’t really know how to put it right now.”

“I don’t really know what to tell you, Bryce,” Will said, “other than guns are dangerous things and I’d like to not have one pointed at me right now.”

“I know how dangerous they are,” Bryce said. “I don’t want to tell you how I know, but I know.”

The train pulled into West Oakland and a handful of people got out, more got on. A couple of teenagers sat in a four-person seat area directly in front of them, blocking Will’s view of Adam and Steve at the other end of the car. He gave up trying figure out how to signal them for help. The kids were talking loudly, and one of them had a speaker, blasting music Will had never heard before. Or maybe he had but he couldn’t recognize it. He realized he couldn’t understand what the kids were saying, either. He recognized the language as English, but some combination of his anxiety and terror and the teen slang made their conversation foreign to him. He wanted to shush these kids so he could think, ask them to cut their radio. He heard one of them say, clearly, “Smells like piss here,” but they didn’t move.

Bryce clammed up around these kids. He removed his hand from Will’s thigh, but the gun remained tented under the slicker, remained pointed at Will.

They sat silently for two more stops. At 19th Street-Oakland, the teens got off. So did Adam and Steve, without a look back at Will. The car was mostly empty now. Will was supposed to get off at the next stop, to catch the Richmond line, to take that train to Ashby, but Bryce didn’t move gun or body when the train pulled up at MacArthur. A slew of people got off to switch trains. Will’s BART ride to Berkeley was detoured and heading east.

            “Let’s just keep riding,” Bryce said. “We still need to talk.”

            “What do you want from me?” Will’s voice cracked. “What could you possibly want with me?”

            “Jackson is mad he didn’t get my virginity, Mr. Cabot,” Bryce said, “He thinks I’m a slut for just giving it up to anyone and he’s mad that you and I had such a strong sexual connection. You see he says a sexual bond is sacred in the eyes of God and the church, and that union is about marriage of property, and that as such I am his property.”

            “What church?” Will hissed. “You know of a Christian church that hates Jews and loves gays?”

            “That’s complicated,” Bryce said. “Because Jackson loves me for me, see, and he says as long as I don’t tell anyone I’m his bussy boy, we can pretend at home like I’m a lady and his wife. Everyone just thinks we’re roommates, but it’s more sacred than that. You see, I’m his.”

            Will’s eyes watched the tent in Bryce’s slicker, and he began to tear up. He had lived through odd and regrettable hook-ups, but none had led to this. Like Bryce, Will had once himself been a broken 20-year-old with a penchant for falling in love with any guy who gave him the slightest bit of attention. Still, he couldn’t fathom getting caught in an abusive relationship with a neo-Nazi.

            “I respect the sanctity of your relationship,” Will said. “And I will continue to respect it, away from you, and we can both forget about each other.”

            “This is exactly what I’m talking about, Mr. Cabot!” Bryce beamed at him. “I’ve been trying to tell you this. I found your Instagram and Jackson saw I was looking at it and he got jealous, and I lied, I told him you weren’t anything. Then he found all the emails we’d written to each other and it got worse.” Bryce touched his cauliflowered ear. “I should have deleted them. I never should have printed them.”

            The train stopped at Rockridge, moved on.

            Will was confused. He had written no emails in response to Bryce, had not corresponded at all with the boy, had not said anything to him after that incredulous “Right” in Bryce’s parents’ foyer.

            “He found our love letters,” Bryce said, “and he told me I had to tell you it was over. And then he bought me this.” He poked Will with the pistol again.

            “What are you even talking about?” Will’s voice was weak. The car was empty now except the two of them. He could scream and weep if he liked, but he sat frozen and silent, thought of all the unrectified regrets he held. He feared he would die without correcting his mistakes. He thought of Adam and Steve willfully ignoring him minutes earlier. Would everyone’s negative opinions of him live on after he had been shot dead by a crazed former student?

            “I saw on your Instagram that every Sunday you’re behind the bar at that place in the city, so I figured I’d come tell you there. But I thought that seeing me at your place of work, where you could invite me into a back room or a locked bathroom, that our passion would reignite and that we would have to act on our forbidden desires, so I just wanted to talk to you. You didn’t respond to my email telling you it was over, so Jackson said I had to tell you in person.”

            Bryce must have written fictitious return emails himself, Will thought. And he wondered now if Jackson was real, too, or if this was just another made-up element of Bryce’s life. He is bringing the internet alive. A living Reddit thread, a breathing 4Chan board. He has been combing the dark web for plot points of fantastical life.

            “We’re getting off here,” Bryce said.

            They were approaching the Walnut Creek station. This was the stop for the school where Will taught, where Bryce had been a student, where they had met months earlier. Bryce premeditated this, premeditated all of it, Will was sure.

            They got off the train and took the stairs down from the platform.

“If you run, I will shoot you.”

They exited the station. Bryce held on to the back of Will’s Gore-Tex jacket. The rain had stopped. The expansive parking lot, full on weekdays, was empty. The wet asphalt glistened under tall security lamps.

            Bryce held the pistol through his slicker to Will’s back, and they walked that way into a four-story parking structure. They took the elevator to the roof. No cars were parked that far up, and it was darker there, the lights dimmer. They were higher than the platform now, and Will could see a few people waiting for the inbound train. He wanted to scream, to cry for help, but instead he opened his mouth and emitted a weak sob.

            “Get on your knees,” Bryce said.

            “You don’t have to do this,” Will said.

            “Get on your knees, Mr. Cabot!”

            Will knelt down on the slick concrete. The boy put the tip of the gun between Will’s shoulder blades, and said,

            “I know you think you’re better than me, Mr. Cabot, because you probably did all the reading in your classes and you go to lectures and art openings, but I know that I’m a real-deal American. I found God. I got my gun. I’m happy now, with Jackson, and you need to stop trying to have sex with me, you need to stop trying to ruin my relationship, you need to get out of my head, Mr. Cabot. You need to leave me alone!”

            Will sobbed, “Ok, I will, ok!”

            “You think you’re such a Chad and that I’m not worthy of you, never responding to my messages, using me. You took my innocence, Mr. Cabot, my virginity. You think you’re so fucking great, but you know what, Mr. Cabot, you’re a four at best. You’re not as smart as you think you are, you’re not as cool, and you’re definitely not as hot. You know you got a bald spot,” Bryce laughed. “I can see it right now. Wow, you got a shiny bald head, Mr. Cabot.”

            Will reached up to his crown and placed his hands on his head, and Bryce continued to laugh.

            “Lie down on the ground,” Bryce said. “Face down on the ground.”

            Rain started to fall again. Will did as he was instructed. He pressed his face against the wet, oily pavement and squeezed his eyes shut. Soot got on his lips. He tasted rubber. Tears leaked out of his scrunched eyes, dripped down his cheeks and onto the cold ground.

“You’re in for it now, scumbag,” Bryce said. His voice was deeper now, gruffer, an imitation of an action movie star. “I have found what you couldn’t ever offer me. I have found love and acceptance from a man of God. You think you know what’s right, what’s good. You’re evil, Mr. Cabot. You are the epitome evil.” Bryce’s voice shook, softened. “You have led a wicked life, a wicked wicked life. You are heartless and condescending. I know you think I’m trash. But if I’m trash, you’re worse. You’re sewage water, rat shit. You are the dirt under my fingernail.”

Bryce deepened his voice again, resumed his impersonation of something from a movie: “I’m not gonna waste a bullet on you, you scumbag. Not worth the lead. You don’t deserve the attention of death. Now I get to go home and tell Jackson that you’re finally going to leave me alone, right? Right?!”

“Right,” Will sobbed.

“Right,” Bryce said. “Now. He and I can be together without you bothering us.”

The rain beat down harder, and Will stayed prostrate. He cried, and the asphalt ground scratched his face. He stayed like this for a long time, sobbing, listening to the rain, to the sound of the elevator dinging, the doors closing. He stayed on the ground and asked, finally and bravely, “Bryce?” He got no response. He was alone.

He stood and looked at the station’s open platform, lit bright in the dark night. Bryce was there, waiting for an inbound train, a smudge of red calmly leaning against a trash can.

A train came rushing in, opened its doors, and Will watched the red slicker get on and disappear into the car. The train left the station as quickly as it came, its screech whistling on the track along the freeway. A few car lights zoomed alongside it. It would be another 20 minutes for the next train back, and Will walked to the parking garage stairs to head down and back to the station.


Philip Anderson is a writer, cat dad, interior designer and art wife in Los Angeles, CA. He has his MFA from Columbia University where he also taught creative writing. He was the 2020 Lighthouse Writer's Workshop Emerging Fiction Fellow in Denver and has received fellowships from Millay Arts, Catwalk Artist Residency, and Lighthouse Works in New York. His fiction has been published by Martha's Quarterly, Bull, Archways, Story, and is forthcoming in LIT. He is currently working on a queer road trip novel and a collection of short stories.


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