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Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Train

My daughter had just been admitted to a hospital up north near her college and I needed to get there. I’m not the greatest driver even when I’m not anxious and sleep deprived, plus my beloved van though certainly willing, may no longer be equal to such a long trip.

The only thing that gave me pause was that the train stretched the six hour drive into ten because of all the stops. But I ultimately decided those four hours were a fair exchange for the chance to stare stupidly out the train window, maybe even nap. I printed out my novel-in-progress on the off chance I’d be able to work, and packed two novels in case I just wanted to read.

Mitch dropped me at the station with almost an hour cushion to ensure I wasn’t adding any stress to my current load.

It turned out I had ample time to appreciate the beauty of Union Station’s architecture, the tile work, the soaring ceilings, the marble and light, because there was a delay.

Mitch offered to pick me back up and take me to rent a reliable car to cut my time losses. But I insisted on sticking to the plan. 

Three and a half hours later, the train pulled into the station. The odd characters with whom I'd passed the time boarded the train with me and we were whisked away. Ah!

But two hours or so from home, we came to an unexplained halt. 

The grumbling and theorizing among my fellow passengers increased as we remained unmoving. Time passed and we were given no official explanation. 

Luckily, the men working downstairs in the snack car were not so reticent.  They told me someone did themselves in by jumping in front of the train. 

I knew trains probably killed hundreds of mice, and rats and bunnies, as well as thousands of bugs a day.  But according to the snack guys, except for the annoying interruption of service, human death was no biggie either. 

One of them said he’d had one in New Mexico last week that they cleared in just over an hour, but usually by the time they got the coroner to the crime scene, and cleaned up all the bits, a suicide averaged anywhere between three and six hours. 

I changed my order from coffee to wine and returned to my seat. I texted everyone who needed to know, and their reactions ran between sympathetic, to grossed out, to furious on my behalf. 

But besides cursing the vagaries of train travel, the ineptitude of AMTRAK, or even the the random tragedy of the poor dead guy’s misery, the thing that seized me was that I'd had to be told  that I'd just been part of an instrument of death. 

You’d think there’d have been a shiver or strange sensation at the moment of impact at least. A cosmic, creepy something, an instinctive sorrow or sick feeling... But I'd been no more aware of the man's death on the track than of the bugs' on the windshield. 

Eerie oblivion.

xo Amy


The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I don't know what to say to that. It sounds like part of a very creepy book. I think that why you were on the train influneced how you felt.
I was on the train to Robert kennedy's funeral with the other campaign volunteers when someone announced James Earl Ray (MLK's killer) at the Earls Court Hotel in London. Besides a stray thought about how strange it was that I had stayed at that same tiny seedy hotel two years earlier, I felt nothing.
I think when we sre going toward an overwhelming important event in our lives, very few things outside that event emotionally impact us.
That being said, Amtrak going north from here sucks. said...

That's just eerie...

Zed said...

That is quite creepy. I hope you managed to get to your destination ok?