The Boy On The Train
The snow was falling, all around me children were playing; having fun.
Well, not exactly, but it was that kind of feeling. Christmas was in full swing and it was time for my annual visit to my friends. Fuck work, fuck being sensible. ‘Tis the season to get thoroughly pissed!
In one last concession to sensibility, I had considered various options to get up to Edinburgh—plane, train or automobile—but in the end decided on the cheap off-peak ticket for the four-hour journey by rail.
The carriage was practically deserted, helped both by the midday start time and the uncertainty with the ongoing train strikes. I had slipped off Nike Tn3s earlier in the journey, enjoying the space afforded. It just felt nice and a little bit daring to be sitting there in my white socks.
I was known among my friends for having very expensive tastes in trainers, and seemingly having an endless supply. My mum once commented that she didn't know anyone with as many shoes as me.
I wondered what Nathan would make of my latest pair. A brand new, out of the box, white and black Nike Tn3 pair. They were stunning and gleaming. He always ribbed me for having more money than sense.
"Y'know if you arrived here in a pair that actually looked like they have been worn, I might actually buy you a drink!"
I smiled; that was never happening. Either of them.
I sat back in my reserved seat with a table, watching the countryside flash by, suddenly finding myself pondering why the seat reservation system only ever seemed to be functioning when there was absolutely no need for it.
Oh, and I might have lied again. The countryside wasn't "flashing by”. It was, if we are adhering to the strict observance of actualities, ambling past with all the urgency of raccoons leaving a full bin. The joys of the West Coast Mainline . . .
But it was Christmas, a time of magical things. So, let's just pretend it was flying by. In fact, why not pretend that the train was actually flying, pulled through the air by a flock of magical festive platypuses!
Ah, yes, sorry. There is the slight possibility that after nearly three hours I might have had a can or two . . .
The train pulled into its penultimate scheduled stop at Berwick upon Tweed, to very little fanfare or shuffling of people to board. With a fair wind, and no cows venturing onto the line, in fifty-two minutes I would be in the centre of Edinburgh and the long weekend could begin.
I was just wondering whether a group of platypuses were indeed a 'flock' or, for that matter, if ‘platypuses’ was indeed the correct plural, when a young lad entered the carriage. He walked down the aisle looking at the seat numbers until he stopped at the pair of seats opposite mine.
He dropped his rucksack on the chair, bending over to rummage through it. His rear stuck out across the aisle, his black jeans halfway down his arse, exposing his highly patterned and colourful Freegun boxers.
I tried not to stare but, well, I stared. You got me, but I doubt you would have been any different. His boxers were so close to my face that I'm sure he could have felt my breath through the stretchy thin fabric, if I wasn't holding it in. It was driving me crazy and I couldn't hold back any longer. I turned my head and planted a kiss on his amazing buttock. He spun around suddenly, the reaction causing the loose jeans to fall to his feet and leaving me mere inches from his thick, pulsating . . .
Yeah, that didn't happen. Sorry, I do have these flights of fancy.
Instead, I just sat there, not daring to breathe. Eventually he sat down, and I greedily gulped a lungful of air. Not that it helped much—the gratuitous display of boxer shorts was still on show, only from a different angle. This could be a very distracting end to the journey.
I couldn't help but continue to stare. The lad was young, slender, and absolutely crack cocaine eye candy. He was reading a book, which was nice to see a young person do, I found myself thinking, then cringing at how old that made me feel. From the cover it looked like some kind of horror story, obviously second-hand, the paperback's well-worn appearance making that abundantly clear. The pages were dog-eared and well fingered. I couldn't quite see the title. 'Bring on the' was all I could see.
My eyes dropped down to see what was on his feet. I was surprised it had taken me this long to check, to be entirely honest. It tends to be the first thing I look at—I have a habit of greeting people by their feet—but there had been other distractions in this case. He was wearing an extremely battered pair of black Vans, with a white bumper; well, they used to be white, I guess. The bottoms of his jeans were bunched against them, so I couldn’t see his socks.
It was about then I realised he was no longer reading his book but instead observing me observing him. Now, normally, I would drop my eyes and pretend I wasn't doing that but this time I didn't. I held his gaze. I held it as he set the book down on the seat next to him and slowly stood up. I held his gaze as he moved towards me. And I held his gaze as our lips met when he leaned down and kissed me.
What the fuck is wrong with me? Sorry, of course I didn't hold his gaze. I averted my eyes as soon as I was caught. Which always makes it seem more obvious, but what's a boy to do? I had been caught staring too long at forbidden fruit.
I left it a reasonable amount of time and glanced back. He was still not reading his book but was looking under the table in front of me. It dawned on me he was looking at the trainers I had kicked off at the start of the trip. He glanced up at me and smiled sheepishly.
"I'd been thinking of getting some of those for a while,” he surprised me by saying; he had a nice voice. “I think it's time to mix up my style a bit." He paused for a moment, thoughtfully. "Can I have a look at ’em?"
I must have nodded or something because within a second he was already up and reaching for my shoes. He picked one up and sat in the aisle seat on the other side of my table.
He peered at the expensive piece of footwear, turning it around to view all angles. "They're hot!” he said enthusiastically, placing the single trainer on the table. It somehow made it more exciting to see my shoe in plain sight, now closer to someone else than it was to me.
"Oh man,” he exclaimed. “I want a pair now!" Then, as if the realisation that he’d have to spend a shit load of money dawned in his mind, his excited look vanished in an instant, replaced with one of resignation and horror. Gingerly, he picked up the shoe and placed it back on the floor.
"What bad manners,” he said. “I shouldnah put my feet on the furniture!" His look of mock horror flipped quite quickly into a silly goofy grin. He was killing me!
"Are they comfortable?” he asked, indicating the Tn3s. “I'm Cal, by the way."
I confirmed they were, indeed, a very comfortable wear and returned the introduction.
"You're a ten?” he said, glancing down to my sock-clad feet. When I nodded, he hesitated, then said in an almost bashful voice, “Me too. Umm, I don't suppose I could try them on? Y'know, just to see how comfy they are." He reached across the aisle to his bag and produced a couple of cans. "I have beer as payment!"
The two halves of my brain were rapidly spinning to opposite corners of the room. Sensible Me was trying to remind me that I had already had a couple and I really shouldn't have another one, especially this close to my destination. And anyway, should you really be accepting drinks from someone you have only just met?
Reckless Me, emboldened by the previously aforementioned alcoholic consumption, responded with "He's hot!”, "Don't be so boring!” and finally with a raspberry that lasted well over thirty seconds, drowning out any attempted comeback from his conservative counterpart.
In the end, I agreed. I was offered both a beaming smile and a can. I opened it and took a swig, briefly glancing in horror at the mammoth 6.4% alcoholic content. I was going to be half cut when I arrived and no mistake.
"I told you so!" said Sensible Me.
I wasn't listening though. I was looking at my new friend slipping off one of his battered Vans, and I instantly got a huge rise when a white sock was finally revealed. It was a tantalising view. I readjusted my seating position as cover for grabbing a better look.
And then an idea struck me. I reached down and picked up my Tn3s and slid across to the aisle seat opposite him. This afforded me an even closer view of his sockswhile briefly delaying them being hidden inside trainers again.
"These are really loosely laced so they should just slip on,” I said, offering him one.
He took it readily and slipped it on. My heart was beating very fast at this point, delivering blood to all the right places.
Well, one place in particular . . .
Then, he slipped off his other shoe. God knows how much I wanted to grab his leg, bring it up to my face and bury my nose deep into his socks.
A few dazed and delicious moments passed. "Can I have the other one now, please?" Cal finally asked. He had obviously caught me daydreaming, and looked more than a little amused by it. At least he couldn't read my mind.
That was what Sensible Me was thinking.
Reckless Me was hoping the lad could read my mind and that any moment he would be bundling me into the toilet and giving me a real good f—
Once again, his voice abruptly brought me back to earth. "Um?" he said, smiling and holding out his empty hand.
I looked at him and realised I still hadn't given him the other shoe. “Oh! Oh, right!" I stammered apologetically.
He took the shoe from my hand and quickly slipped it on. When he stood up, he seemed slightly surprised at the extra height that his new footwear had given him. Not that he needed any extra. He bounced on his toes for a moment, exhaling an appreciative ‘Oooh’.
Stepping away from the seat, he walked up and down the aisle as if he were in a shoe shop trying on a new pair. My eyes alternated between the trainers when he was walking towards me and his boxer-clad arse when he walked the other way. It was almost too much to take.
He sat down and sighed. "They are so nice but so different for me. I'm not sure I could carry it off."
I scoffed at the notion. I spent the next five minutes trying to explain why he was wrong in ways that didn’t involve just blurting out “You are hot and could wear anything" or “Please, just bend me over the table and take me now". It didn’t help that he kept popping his heels out of the loose shoes, and then slipping them back in a few moments later. Whether the shoe play was unconscious or a deliberate tease I couldn’t say. Either way, I wasn’t about to complain.
We spent the next thirty minutes chatting. Dusk had descended outside but there was a warmth and glow in our otherwise empty carriage. I was surprised how much I was at ease with this stranger I had only just met. This was normally difficult for me. I'm sure it was made easier by the second can he insisted I imbibe.
The next thing I knew, the train ground to a halt. A panicked look flashed on my new friend's face and he shot up out of his seat. "Oh shit! This is me,” he exclaimed. He reached across to grab his book, stuffing it quickly back into his rucksack. "Thanks, mate. I've really enjoyed meeting you.” He glanced at the door and yelped, “Shit! It's about to leave!"
There was a brief wave between us and he was out of the train. I looked through the window as he darted across the platform and disappeared into the approaching night. I sighed and slumped back in my seat as the train pulled off. I rubbed my head ruefully. Maybe the second can was a beer too far for me these days.
"I told you . . .” an unwelcome voice sounded in my head.
Oh, do fuck off, Sensible Me! Where has listening to you ever got me? That was a blast; an unexpected—and welcome—distraction for the journey. I really should take more risks.
I sighed again and stretched out my arms and legs; the movement was my body’s defence from the ever-increasing sleepiness induced by the beer. Actually, it made me realise that I really needed a wizz. This is always awkward when travelling alone; do you pack everything up and take it with you or do you just trust that everyone else will be honest? I favour the latter, and no, it isn’t because I have a high regard for human nature; it’s just that there is nowhere to run on a train. Yeah, I know. I’m shrugging my shoulders.
I reached down to grab my Tns, arm flapping under the table as I tried to find them, head hovering just above. When my fingers finally connected with footwear I kind of froze. Holding my breath, I slowly lowered my head below table level to confirm what my fingers already knew.
These weren’t my Tns. These were very battered Vans.
My heart sank. He wasn’t interested in me at all. It was all a ruse to steal my trainers. I’d been played and fell for it entirely. How disappointing.
"I told you . . .” That unwelcome voice again.
Yeah, you did, Sensible Me. That you did.
The carriage was no longer warm: the glow had disappeared. It was just an empty carriage. An empty carriage with a silly naive me—and one less pair of Tns—in it.
I reached down and picked up the Vans. The lad had said we both wore the same size, but I double checked the inside of the tongue just to be sure. That’s when I spotted the biro scrawled across the white part of the label.
“If lost, please return to . . .”
Oh my, there was a phone number! Nothing to say, Sensible Me? No, I thought not.
I caught a glance of my reflection in the window. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t altogether unwelcome; a huge fucking goofy smile stared back at me.
I made a note of the number in my phone and slipped on the battered Vans, instantly feeling at home in them. It looked like a hook-up on the return journey might be in the cards. And maybe I could get my Tn3s back. Or maybe I won’t . . .
And there’s a thought—I might finally get a drink out of Nathan when I got into Edinburgh since I’d be wearing these old Vans instead of new trainers! I leaned back in my chair contentedly, with a buzz in my head, and sighed. Andas the train started to ascend into the now starry nightsky, I could’ve sworn I heard the jingle jangle of the magical festive Platypuses as we crested the hill.
Yes, this was going to be the best Christmas ever and no mistake.
Merry Christmas, You.
The Boy On The Train was written by sneaked666
Cover photo - flameboardsagger
Editor - sz1415sneakers
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