I moved to leave the train, but my progress was arrested because the handrail had grown through my palm like a bicycle through a tree on which birds roost at night. I rode in this state for a long time and I was told that I must leave by officials representing the transit authority, each more senior than the last. Medical professionals came and examined me, first a veterinarian that happened to be present while I was being rebuked by a transit authority departmental supervisor, then a representative of the city's nursing staff, then 1
a general practitioner, then a specialist, but his specialty was podiatry, and that was not applicable in my case, and finally a trauma specialist who primarily spent his days and nights reconstructing the victims of industrial accidents, but his opinion was no different than the veterinarian's inasmuch as he knelt on the floor and closely examined my hand and the rail, then stood and said â€œhuhâ€? as he brushed the filth of the train from his knees. I received fines from the city each day for loitering. A charitable organization brought food, some of it in cans, and when I asked them to open them for me, they held a committee meeting and determined that while they could not open the cans for me, they could loan to me a can opener. I pointed out the difficulty I'd have using a can opener when one of my hands had been appropriated by the handrail and I explained this as gently as I could since they only wanted to feed me. Their response was that while it would be difficult, I must practice. One night I felt a bird land on the roof of the car, which came as a surprise because I wasn't aware there were any night birds in the city and also because up to that point I could only feel things that touched my body. My skin demarcated the boundary between that which I could imagine being touched and that which I could confirm was being touched. I determined from this admittedly limited evidence, though evidence evaluated in conjunction with the state of my hand, that the train car had become my body. The next day my hypothesis gained considerable credibility when the 2
first commuters who lined the platforms before dawn like city birds entered the car and, as they did each day, grasped my handrail and stomped their boots on my floor and I felt their palms and their feet on my new body. All feet felt the same just as all hands felt different. Some hands grasped me with adequate pressure to keep them from tumbling across the floor at the train's abrupt turns and these hands quickly became routine and I only remembered them when they released me to leave the car and the steady, peripheral pressure of their hands disappeared. Some held me viciously, so great was their fear of movement. My rail first felt bound, constricted, when they held me, then a dull ache rose like a broken shaft in the intestines of an engine, then numbness and the stuttering, dissonant pulses, mine and the one in the vicious hand. When these people would release me, the rail would feel nothing for a long time, then itch for a long time. The feeling once grew to such an unbearable point that I begged the occupants of the car, any one of them, to please, please scratch the rail for me, but no one obliged. I enjoyed the touch of women, a rarity in my life prior to the affliction of becoming affixed, my affixion, I joked, but no one ever chose to laugh. I learned to enjoy the touch of men too and finally stopped differentiating between them. Sometimes at the height of rush hour so many hands grasped the rail at once, all with different hands, soft and calloused, some releasing for a moment to check the time then returning, some with rings sharp or rounded at 3
the edges, and sometimes I collapsed on the floor, my torso dangling from my hand and I bounced with the jerking of the train, because the ecstasy was too much for a poor man like me to bear. This is where I spent the following years until the transit authority decommissioned the car and sent it to the scrap yard. I insisted to the workman in the yellow hat who seemed unsurprised to find me there, that while the rest of the car could be broken down for scrap, he would find my body of considerably less value. Essentially worthless, I told him and with only a perfunctory survey he agreed and cut the rail on either side of my hand. I awoke some minutes later, my hand throbbing like birds had stripped it of its meat in the night. Despite the evidence provided by my eyes, I spent some minutes convinced that the worker cut poorly and robbed me of my hand, but then as the pain dissipated, I discovered he had done his job quite competently. The yellow hat knelt over me the whole time and when he saw I wasn't to die he returned to his work. I was only partly correct about the relative values of the car and my body for scrap. When he cut into the meat of the car, an almost purple blood oozed from the wound. He tried again at the doors and on the roof, below the carriage and where the seats were welded to the floor and wherever he cut, it bled. I was worth nothing and so too was the car. I tapped the befuddled and stained yellow hat on the shoulder and I apologized. 4
I went home, but stopped briefly at the drugstore for ointment and bandages to sooth the remnants of the bar still piercing my hand.