There are two of you riding the train toward London: you, in your ballcap and khaki shirt and blue jeans, in Gore-Tex boots thrust into your arms by your dad right before you ran away; and another man, another you, an older you, on a different train at a different time, also wearing a ballcap and a khaki shirt and blue jeans, but this time nursing a tender heart. You're both smiling – beer grins, really – and as the train trundles along the tracks, you both wonder at the same small mysteries: how the car stays on its rails by sheer friction, how the light from a television set is always blue, how a woman's touch persists on your shoulder long after her fingers have left. Thirty years separate you, but with each dwindling mile the flutter in your stomachs grows. It's pure anticipation, that flutter, and it presses like a thumb against the dimple where your breastbones meet rib.
Your name is Jack West, and you are twenty-five, and Canadian. You have knees like cobblestones but arms that can swing a pickaxe. You're tall, if not tall enough to intimidate a drunk, and your dad taught you to throw punches, to twist your whole body behind each fist. Scars dot the ridge of your eyebrow where more than a couple of blows have opened you to the bone. You are a kid who thinks fast but acts slow, who was once somebody a person could trust their housekeys to, who freezes up like a coward in the presence of girls. The last is no fault of your own, and in later years you will realize that you squandered your golden, flirtatious youth in a relationship that ended in flame. More than anything, you will wish you could speak in metaphor when speaking of fire.
In fact, Jack West, you wish a lot of things. You wish you were home in western Canada. You wish you could find work, if only to spare cash for a nicer shirt (all your shirts are khaki, uncollared, likely to be torn or stretched or scorch-worn). You wish you could explain things to your dad, to the wife and the one-year-old boy you left on the concrete steps in your backyard, left to gaze across the road at a house fire you started, at a 1950s Jeep slumping into the mud, at an evergreen pine with two twin trunks reaching like a great V toward the sky.