Melita Rowston is a playwright, writer and a director. She used to be a painter in Melbourne. She is about to catch a variety of trains through New York, Paris, Budapest and her most anticipated journey – from Dublin to Galway, to haunt a hundred year old stone hut on the Aran Islands and write a play about ships and love. She plans to make a website about herself when she gets back. Melita recently had her play Crushed on as part of New Theatre’s Spare Room Season.
He jerks me into his wet chest, slides his face across mine and kisses me. There’s the smell of his raw leather jacket, weed, beer and the taste of something chemical. Through the tangle of his hair, I can see the red headlights of the traffic on repeat as they plunge down Flinders Street. He pushes me away. The traffic revs its collective engine impatient for the lights to go green. He’s staggering like a rock star, the intersection his stage, but there’s nothing impressive about this performance. I glance at the station clock – nearly midnight.
‘We’re going to miss the last train!’
The chains of his biker boots jangle on the bitumen as he struts before the beast that is the restless traffic. The driver nearest us flashes his headlights. We could be at a disco. He lunges at the windscreen. The driver sticks his head out the window, his face an angry shadow under his baseball cap. Then the lights go green. And that’s when it really starts to get messy.
I try to drag him across the road. He pulls me back into him and growls into my neck, ‘Let’s get knocked up by the traffic. Let’s end it all now in a blaze of glory!’
The try-hard Goths watch us from the shadows of the Burke and Wills statue while Burke studies the map that failed him. The hands of the station clock hit midnight.
The experiment is failing.
We met on the last train to Frankston, as it hurtled past a string of stations from which girls my age had recently been abducted. I was cradling my dog-eared copy of The Female Eunuch and becoming appropriately angry at The Patriarchy. He was slugging bourbon from a Smurfs thermos and staring at the boobs on the front cover. We were both ignoring the guy behind us vomiting into a box of BBQ Shapes. Our knees rubbed against each other as the carriage took the difficult turns. When the train plunged into the darkness of a depression era tunnel, he put his hand on my thigh and said,
‘What’s a eunuch?’
I laughed. Because I thought he was being ironic.
I have a rule about trains. If someone talks to me, I pretend I can’t hear. I don’t talk back. I do everything I can to dissuade a chat. Trust me. On trains, the talking thing always ends badly.
He rolled up the sleeve of my flannel and traced his phone number along my arm until I knew it by heart. Surprisingly, I let him. When we came to his stop, I walked him to the door. He stood on the platform and stared right into me. As the train tried to leave, he held the doors open, looking like Axl Rose – but with Slash’s hair. Over the beeping and the shouts from passengers, he pushed a wet five dollar note into my stomach,
‘Here’s your winnings. ‘Cos I bet you won’t call me.’ Large eyes like storm water drains.
As the train pulled out of the station, I watched him walk into a cyclone fence and search for a handle as if it were a door.
A few days later I called him.
It was an experiment, see. I usually spend summer with the blinds drawn. Emerging at dusk when the garage door becomes cool to touch, I paint til dawn or when the Nescafe shakes set in. But the night heat was turning my oils to shit. So I’d taken to the trains on the air-conditioned lines, circling passages of The Female Eunuch with my red pen. ‘Women have very little idea how much men hate them,’ it swam in bleeding ink as he put his hand on my thigh. Yet there was something about those quietly desperate eyes…
I hate Top 10 Summer Anthems. I hate empty summer streets. I hate the way my dark clothes absorb the heat. I hate beach towels slung over balconies and front yards full of cars. I hate waking up on someone’s rumpus room floor listening to heated fumbling from Matt and Sarah or David and Kate. I hate this city in summer. Summer is when psychopaths get restless. I should know, I’ve ended up in the middle of Flinders Street with one.
‘You promised me a beer and a bit of Def Metal, not eternal damnation!’ I scream in his ear. So he collar ties me. And as the yellow clocks tick twelve ‘o’ five, the last train to Frankston pulls out of the station and the police arrive. I wonder if we’ll make the news.
Sometimes when a guy bellows ‘Boobies!’ at The Female Eunuch, I think of him and his dance of death in the disco that was the traffic. He’s there to remind me that I’m no scientist. And I should never ever experiment with talking to boys on trains again.