“Why do trains make you horny?” said Amy.
“You tell me,” I said, referring to a past incident in her life.
“Ah, that,” she had the decency to say. “No, something Alfredo told me.”
“You can’t tell me what Alfredo told you. Secrets of the small back room, secrets of the confessional.”
“This is different.”
He was on a train, she said, the other day, a dim dirty commuter train into London. It was late at night, the rain was relentless outside and the carriage was almost empty. In the next section there was a little old lady of mild and benevolent demeanour. Opposite him sat a young woman of Caribbean origin. As he looked up from time to time from his dull book he glanced at her. Sometimes from the tail of his eye he saw that she was glancing approvingly at him. These things, he told Amy, often happen with him on trains – it’s probably his thick black curls – and nothing comes of them.
“Did he stand up and caper around, first on one leg and then the other, clasping his private parts and crying ‘Bellissima, bellissima!’?”
“He does that less now.”
“The kefir is working then.”
“Kefir reliable make people less Italian. It is the science but nobody knows why.”
The tannoy, she said, announced that the ticket collector was about to pass among them. To Alfredo’s surprise, the young woman leapt up and crossed the carriage to him.
“Kiss me, kiss me, I have no ticket.”
“That old James Bond trick,” Alfredo had said, but nevertheless took her onto his lap and kissed her. She took firm hold of the thick black curls to ensure that he persisted. They were in that attitude when the apparatchik arrived.
“Tickets please, sir and madam,” he had said, but to no avail. Their mouths were on each other and their hands were encumbered with each other’s outer garments.
“Tickets please, madam and sir,” he said again. He knew the old James Bond trick too; they had screened it in Training.
At this point the little old lady intervened.
“Can’t you see they’re in love?” she said.
“Love it may be,” he said, “or filth in breach of the Bye-laws, but they need a ticket: each.”
The young woman of Caribbean origin sucked greedily on Alfredo’s tongue, Amy said.
The little old lady said, “Please don’t bother them. I’ll buy them tickets. We have all been in their position.”
“Speak for yourself, madam,” the apparatchik said, “and in your own case not I hope on a facility delivered by this service provider,” but he gave her two single tickets. Alfredo, who has a tidy mind when all is said and done, felt aggrieved, having provided himself with a ticket in advance, but was unable to speak, for the reason already reported.
The apparatchik went off satisfied to his lair. The little old lady said, “Don’t you mind me. You just carry on. I won’t look.”
And so, as Alfredo was to tell Amy later, it was necessary – good manners demanded – that he do so. He did not mind in the least, since his book had proved uninteresting, and it was increasingly clear that the young woman did not either. It was not however the case that the little old lady would not look. Indeed the reflective effect of all the windows is that everything can be seen on a suburban train at night, like it or not.
The young woman loosened her jeans, took Alfredo’s hand and put it in.
“Aah!” said the little old lady.
Soon afterwards they arrived at Charing Cross Station. It was deserted. Alfredo paid the little old lady back for the tickets. She went off towards the exit marked ‘Taxis’ and said, “I hope you have somewhere to go.”
Alfredo was turgid with lust, Amy said.
“New word for me. I need check it on iPhone dictionary.”
Their fingers tore at each other’s palms, Amy said. He proposed a hotel, but the young woman said that she had an established domestic commitment, which made that impossible. My flat, where Alfredo was staying, was too far away.
“Half an hour, tops,” she had said. “But where?”
A figure materialised beside them, as if out of nowhere, the station having seemed deserted: a young woman, Alfredo had told Amy, also of Caribbean origin, with blond hair, boots and a ripped mini-skirt. His immediate thought was that she was about to announce that she did couples, professionally; but then he noticed the transcendental innocence of her gaze, and felt ashamed.
“Come,” said the woman, leading them across the platform. Alfredo told Amy that even fixated as he was on the woman from the train, whose name he had not yet secured, his attention was caught by red knickers, glimpsed through the rips in her mini-skirt.
She took them to a kiosk operated by the West Cornwall Pasty Company, or possibly one of its so-called rivals. It was shut for the night. There was a locked door, bearing the warning: NO CHIPS LEFT ON THESE PREMISES OVERNIGHT. She passed her hand over the lock, which fell away. She ushered them in.
“I turned round to thank her, but she seemed to float into the air: she disappeared,” Alfredo had told Amy.
“He too turgid,” she said to me. “He not think straight.”
“No,” I said. “I think that’s exactly what happened.”
It was totally dark inside. They undressed and laid their clothes on the floor. There was just enough room. She lit a match.
“Do you like me?” she said.
“You’re perfect,” he said. “But put that bloody thing out.”
“I don’t believe for a moment that he said that,” I said.
“Saki last words,” Amy said.
“That’s why I don’t believe for a moment that he said it.”
But such is the human desire to embellish our stories that I had my own vision of the young woman of Caribbean origin, like a line drawing by Eric Gill, sensual and pure in the dark and silence of the West Cornwall Pasty Company’s little tabernacle, with the Angel of Paddington Station – for it was surely she – hovering beneficently above.
“I do hope that he brings her for tea,” I said.