Ellen feels expandable, like the waistline of her mother’s jeans, or the carry ons stuffed into the racks above her head. On her lap rests a combat green shoulder bag, empty but for a small bottle of water that is already sweating through the canvas. She has four stops to go. A group of Nordic walkers waits for her at the fountain at the north end of the park across the street from the station. Ellen knows none of them.
The train lurches on its tracks, banking hard to the left. Ellen feels her stomach drop the way it used to through the curve in the tunnel under Lesseps Square, sparks flying out where the Bonneville’s tailpipe kissed the asphalt. Craig had been a reckless boyfriend.
When the train straightens out again, Ellen’s expandability turns against her, and she begins to fold in like an accordion, a fan snapping shut against a powdered Spanish bosom, the maps that took them across Italy. She remembers the way the salesman folded the walking sticks up. "Great for travel," he of course remarked. She had nodded and backed out of the store, her smile scraping against her teeth. Now she realizes she will have to offer excuses. She has brought water, but no Nordic walking sticks. She has forgotten to apply sunscreen, hopeless. When the train reaches the station across the street from the park with the fountain at the north end, she wills it to fly past, onto the next stop and the next, until she is able to stretch out her legs, open the bottle of water.