And She Can Breathe Again
 
By Chris Bergum
 
Trees and telephone poles rush past the train.
A woman watches, expressionless, hands
gripping the silver handles of her dark purse.
Her hair hangs wet and knotted at her shoulders,
keeping her coat from ever becoming dry.
 
The familiar chunkchunkchunk rhythm slows,
spreading out and then dying altogether as brakes
scream to announce the presence of the station.
A handful of passengers board the train
and the landscape is moving again, the rhythm returned.
 
An old woman walks past six empty seats.  Her
hair is white and curly and hasn’t been styled 
since she bought her clothes, likely 30 years ago.
The younger woman stares at and through the 
window.  The older woman is not bothered by this.
 
She sits, puts away her umbrella, and settles in.
Her name, she says, is Marjorie, and she’s going south
to visit her grandchildren and her first great-grandchild, 
a newborn with her father’s eyes and, she’s sure,
her mother’s curiosity, though she’s only seen pictures.
 
The woman does not smile or turn away from the window.
Her hands only tighten their grasp of her purse.
Marjorie talks through the next seven stations. At
the eight, she wishes her silent companion well, smiling 
as though she’d never felt sorrow, and gets off the train.
 
As the station pulls out of the view from her window,
the woman’s face does not change, but her hand slides
into her purse, and the .38 caliber awaiting her inside.
Even she can’t hear the cylinder click as she presses it 
with her thumb and lets a single bullet fall into her purse.
 
 
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