There are eight
He sprawls like landscape over the seats,
legs spread open, elbows on knees,
head tipped to the side,
eyes scouting for prey.
He meets your gaze, winks.
He is middle-aged,
you note, sugar sprinkled at his temples.
Sugar. His eyes
are sugared too: too sweet, an invitation.
You want to throw up.
He has the body of a warrior
but moves like a dancer
when he gets to his feet,
crosses the train,
positions his tall frame next to the doors.
“Hey, beautiful,” he says.
His voice feels like fingers skimming your skin
and you flinch. There are cities beneath
his fingernails, dirty and dank, full of
shadows and graffiti.
His smile is like
a dark alleyway
unfolding at your feet.
You try to catch someone else’s eye.
A girl nodding along
to the music blasting into her ears.
She is oblivious.
A woman talking on a cellphone,
her laughter raucous like
a beer bottle shattering in the street.
So many people around you
but none of them see and the ones who do
avert their eyes. Willful blindness,
ducking their heads down as they hurry past
the crime scene.
You can already feel the yellow tape
tightening around your neck.
His patience thins; you aren’t responding.
Clouds gather in the furrow of his brow.
There, his fist clenches:
fishing line at the ready to reel you in.
“Come on, babe,” he says.
You glance at the bait and feel
your throat crawling
with worms. Your lungs begin to unravel.
Can he see the collapse of your star system?
You taste gasoline, see red.
Suddenly sun rays spread across your skin:
his hand, splayed over your hip.
Your flesh withers, you smell
charcoal. You push
his arm away. It is a gut reaction;
you don’t think. If you did, you would have
anticipated the lightning that cracks
in the eddying pools of his eyes.
Electrocute. Nerves buzzing with danger.
You get off the train,
push through the crowd, tripping
over feet and tangled legs,
try to lose yourself in the mass
of bodies and heartbeats.
Look back; he’s at the window. Raises
a hand. Waves.
His lips peel back, a smile,
but all you can see are teeth.
It feels like your bones have turned
into a bulk of butterflies quivering
inside your skin.
You think about catching the next train, but when
it pulls up next to you, you see
the men with shadows like his
in the seats, slouching in the corners, at the doors,
and you know
that they always
You walk the rest of the way home.
By Martina Dominique Dansereau
Martina Dominique Dansereau is a disabled, non-binary lesbian writer and artist whose work centres on trauma and marginalisation, particularly through personal experiences with violence, disability, mental illness, gender, and LGBT issues. When not entrenched in academia or creating art, xe enjoys reading books with xyr snakes, who often fall asleep between the pages. You can find xem on Twitter and Instagram @herpetologics.