The first instance when I began to behold the name ‘Felix’ with true grateful compassion was on my next transfer day to Yeighvor.
I had arranged to go on to Tally’s house after school on Friday, stay overnight with little discretion as to her mum, who is never sober enough to care who Tally entertains in her bedroom, and cycle on to the train station the following morning.
My reasons for this settlement?—I didn’t want to stay a night longer than possible under the same roof as Jean and Elspeth. Sometimes I have spells where I really hate them. And that is no straightforward hate.
Most teenage kids think it’s revolting when they watch their middle-aged parents snuggle up together on the sofa. I’m straight. Watching lesbians interact gives me shivers—and no unfair discrimination meant. It’s the truth. I’m friends with plenty of gay people, and they’re lovely! But at least they keep it to themselves.—Jean and Elspeth are shameless, even in front of their ‘daughter’—I hate it. Not them. Just it, whatever ‘it’ may be.
To return to my story, I had cycled to the station on my bike as usual, flaunting yet another bulging handbag of titian-toned leopard print, in the full knowledge for the whole of my journey that my sister Bridie would ride this same bike back to the house on the hill with the abysmal water pressure.
I purchased my ticket, dallied on the platform in the sun with my legs stretched out, and settled to wait for the train, which was later than usual. And that was when I perceived that someone was watching me…
I had to swivel several times, hair too stiffly back-combed to annoy me, before I saw him.
He was leaning nonchalantly against a rusty pillar some distance away in the murky shadow of the rain guard. But somehow he seemed to make those shadows clean. Somehow they flowed from him in dark folds, billowing like the smooth waves of the ocean. And he was looking at me—straight at me, staring, calculating, utterly still though the undulations were ever going on in the bright gloom about him.
“Felix?” I said at last, when it seemed that he would not speak—and that gaze could not go on forever without it being awkward afterwards.
Wordlessly, he approached, bearing down upon me, hands in pockets, but looking at an increasingly downward angle. I felt my lips part, cheeks cold, but I forced myself to speak again.
“What are you doing here?”
Felix shrugged. “Came to watch a game,” he said elusively. “Thought I’d see you back.”
Flattered, was I? I was utterly elated—and a blazing scarlet colour, I’m sure.
“How did you know about me coming today?”
He frowned a little. “I guess your sister might’ve mentioned it. Or perhaps I just knew…”
He grinned flirtatiously, and I suppressed an intoxicated giggle. Never did it occur to me to ask why he had decided to accompany me down the line as opposed to Bridie.
The train was not long in arriving; nor did it wait for long. We had only just found two seats together, having trekked through several carriages, when there was an ugly jerk and we were moving from the station.
I had no use for my iPod over the course of that journey! There was plenty to catch up on—gossip, primarily. I hadn’t seen Felix in six months, though we had emailed regularly. But emails are insufficient. If one writes an email, one tends to waffle on and waste the time and patience of all concerned. If one does not waffle, the email becomes short and stilted and comparatively dull. Consequently ecommunication, to generalise, is not my favourite form of contact.
I like to see people in physical form. I like to hear the gallant voice of Felix Terrett, his gentle mockery, his infectious laughter. I like people whom I can touch and love by sense and not by belief. That’s why I want to meet Bridie for real.
We passed Bridie’s train halfway down the line, as ever. We saw her? I suppose. It was a strange moment. Where there has always been a lengthy perpendicular thread between parallel lines, at this moment of the crossing of the trains, there for a moment and gone for what seems a lifetime, at that time there was something different: a three-way connection between the three teenagers on the two trains. Each of us seemed to belong in each train.
I can’t explain it, so I guess I’d better try to describe it.
Felix was by the window, because that was the way it had worked when we were scrounging for seats. He had offered the window seat to me, of course, me being the member of the more sensitive sex, but I, seeing what carnage the changeover might create in the already-chaotic carriage, had declined.
The train hurtled past, carriage after carriage, window after window. It was such a long train. Felix’s eyes were fixed upon the moving carriages across the way, head poised still and tense, the end of his Greek nose quivering ever so slightly. This little quiver I had never noticed before, not having been so close with such an opportunity for observance. But then, I gazed at his fine nose, fascinated by its sensuous little twitching motions, overcome with desirous affection for that tiny comical movement.
I knew he’d seen Bridie when he gave a little pant, and for a moment his nose stopped twitching, surprised into paralysis.
As quick as my eyes could tear themselves away from the masculine form looming in front of me, I scoured the moving body of the train opposite for the face of my sister.
It was too sudden to see any fraction but her eyes as they acknowledged us, smiling with tearful emotion.
I see her two eyes yet, speckled like forget-me-not-blue duck eggs, white grains of some simple joy—or perhaps longing, I wonder now. Why, of course it was longing! Poor Bridie was lonely on the train there, watching as Felix and I plunged down the track, side by side, way over across the innavigable chasm between parallel channels.
But that wasn’t the strangest part. The strangest part was that her eyes seemed not to be focussed on me, the all-important sister across the track, as they always had been. They had been fixed on a point quite trivial to the mutual ambition of our future reunion. They had drifted, distracted—rather as had mine.