I boarded a train heading north. The dimpled iron was painted gold, giving the impression that the last stop went as far as Santa’s place. Inside, the cabin was frantic with people jostling to cram bags full of their lives into tiny overhead compartments. One girl wasn’t tall enough to reach, in spite of her three-inch heels. I considered helping her but a kindly boy in a basketball jersey beat me to it. They smiled at each other and some small, jealous part of me couldn’t help but wonder if that smile would have been mine if I’d just been a bit faster.
I took my seat beside an elderly man. He nodded to me and was kind enough to give me the window. His right hand toyed with a band of metal that matched the train. My seat was covered in an embroidered white cloth that looked beautiful but seemed terribly impractical. The heavy vehicle trembled to life, full to the brim with pent up energy, eager to be off, to careen through merging tracks toward its destiny.
Outside, a buck followed his doe through arching trees, the spring grass dancing in the sun and wind, as if it’d never seen rain. There were children in daisy crowns skipping over hills and springs of melted snow. As the town square came into view, the church tower lit up, glowing with solar radiance and the train floated on toward home.
I boarded a train headed south. The cold iron was blackened by years of smoke and erosion making it look as though it’d passed through the fires of hell, or Detroit. There was a line into the cabin even though this train was nearly empty. A woman at the front was in tears, sobbing to the conductor that she’d lost her luggage, or that it was taken from her. Her woolen coat had tissues in the pockets. Every once in a while, she would pull a clean one from her right pocket, fill it with her sorrow, then deposit in her left. The left looked heavier. I pitied the woman but kept my head down, people are alone in their loss.
I took my seat next to an unoccupied isle. It was covered in a white fabric that had been stained red, hopefully by one of the plastic bottles of Ocean Spray cranberry they sold on the cart. The train lurched, sad to no longer be allowed to rest, forced to trudge down parting tracks through mud, sleet and the winter wind toward it’s final destination.
Outside the icy glass, a cat toyed with some rodent in religious deference. A young man walked up a hill, burdened by a blood stained sack of meat purchased at the local butchers. Children in Sunday-ware bellowed ring-around-the-rosy and all fell down. As the town square came into view, the shadow of the clock tower loomed over the tracks, it’s black hands ticking in judgment and the train ground toward home.