I spent a lot of time in trains for my first two years of college.
I wrote an Anthology on them. I’ve reconciled with the possibility that I’ve become obsessed with them, in some way. I don’t care what kind of train I’m on. I couldn’t tell you the make or model. I just care about trains.
To me there are old trains and new trains. I rode middle-aged trains most often.
Why are trains special?
I don’t know. For me, they were like Charon the ferryman from Greek mythology. Home was the River Styx, or just a river; ever changing, inconstant, dynamic. It was fun to ride the swells, but sometimes Long Island drowned me.
The ferry, the train became a lifeline. Looking back on it now the city, New York City, was more like…Purgatory. It never changes you see. There’s always something to do. Always something to see. There are no surprises but the surprises.
It’s always dazzling when you visit, always trouble when you live there, always waiting to pull you in circles until you collapse.
It takes about an hour and 1/2 to get there if you’re coming from Ronkonkoma Station to Penn Station. I know every side street off of Columbus Circle. I’ve walked around, gotten lost inside myself until there was nothing but pigeons and people holding me down.
Have you ever walked home, and wondered how you got there? I have.
Eventually you have to leave though, eventually you need to.
You go back to Charon, pay the 21 dollar MTA fee that’s rising as we speak. Probably as soon as you pay for your ticket. You pick a seat, a three-seater if possible, that way you might get to keep a seat between you and the person destined to join you. If you’re lucky they came from work and they’ll go to sleep. If you’re not, it’s a tourist, or a child. Trains will make you hate children.
Music is key. I always had headphones, not ear-buds, headphones, big foam covers on my ears blasting the soundtrack of my life. Best applied with a window seat.
The train always made me feel weird. I was sad, but I was happy. I kept thinking about where I was going. What was going to become of me? But I was hopeful, and I was a dreamer.
I knew what would become of me now. My Mom or Dad would be waiting near the ATM/Laundromat entrance near the end of the tracks. I’d walk up to them, bags in tow. They’d hug me, take the bags, and we’d get in the car. Go home. Smile, laugh, talk, eat, repeat. I’d come back two days later. We hug. I pay Charon. I’d get on the train.
It pulls out of the station and I feel loss, the same loss I feel when it pulls in.
I don’t know what any of this has to do with anything, but I do know this. Trains are a great way to travel.
One day I’m going to buy a train ticket that will take me to the ends of the earth. I’ll get on that train, and I’ll get off anywhere. I’ll pick somewhere far so I have options and I can get back on whenever I want. I’ll go deeper and deeper until I’m standing on the edge. If I’m up for it, I’ll step off.
I like the world better Square. It’s higher stakes. Stakes that probably belong in train tracks.
I figure I’ll find something, something I’ve always searched for but never had the name for.
Maybe it’s called Courage.