My friend Brendan rang. “Anna’s killed herself,” he said.

What else could I do but laugh? The regional train was chugging past my platform when he called. He had been reading my copy of Anna Karenina.

“Oh, I hate this book. No, I love it; it’s great. It’s so sad, Nathan.”

“Have you finished it?”

“No, she just did it.”

The metro service pulled in. My friend wanted to keep talking. I hadn’t heard him so animated in years. There were no free seats on the train, so I had to stand. As we spoke those bold Russian names, I looked around the carriage for piqued ears.

“How much do you love Levin?”

“Sometimes I just wanted to shake him, though.”

“Why, what’s wrong with Levin?”

“Oh, you know, I wanted to tell him to stop thinking and just enjoy it.”

“But that’s what enjoying it is for him. It’s funny, because I’m pretty sure Tolstoy based Levin on himself, but there’s really no reason why he’s there. He could have left Levin out and halved the book. I guess he does go to Anna’s place at the end, but he’s not really necessary.”

“Now arriving at…Footscray. Customers for the Sydenham service, please change trains at. Footscray.”

“What a cunt Vronsky is.”


“But he doesn’t really have a choice, does he?”

The side of my face was getting sticky from sweat generated by the phone. Outside the window, it was one of those hot days that looks cold: medium cloud cover, no wind, grey skies.

No one in the carriage seemed interested in our conversation, or my half of it.

“Did you like the political maneuverings chapter?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s hilarious. Levin doesn’t get it.”

I could hear Brendan smoking and his voice became faint, but he was so excited I didn’t want to interrupt. “It’s amazing that we talk about them as if they existed. It’s like this whole world that’s complete, you know.”