Burmashave

In her head Peta had the image of the train pulling into the station out of the darkness and the fog, single great light staring forward like a gnomic, Cyclopean eye, while everyone stands around waiting with their hands in their pockets and their collars turned up against the cold. Everyone either stylish or boho, scruffy writers and anarchists and punks or women in the tight curl of a cloche, Humphrey Bogart throwing Ingrid Bergman’s note down in the rain.

Really it’s nothing like that. The station is brilliant with fluorescent lighting and everyone looks like a corpse, washed out and scrubby, dirty in a way entirely distinct from the borderlands of her fantasy. The blue serge suits of the businessmen are threadbare and cheap-looking. The punks are dirty and dull-looking, no Weetzie Bats tripped out on Oki dogs, no young Kerouacs burly and foxy in sand-crusted sweaters. Everything is as she pictured it, but depressing and plastic. Made in Taiwan, serial numbers filed off. In the grit and grease of six a.m. even her dreams seem suddenly low-rent, cobbled together from the back of a cereal box and the white smile of a billboard flashing by the side of a freeway.

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