Riding in the old steam train, I closed my eyes and breathed slowly, taking in every scent; I listened as carfefully as I could, trying to imprint every bit of the sensations so my memory could be full and rich.
There was nothing smooth about the ride; it hitched and clacked and squealed. I leaned my head out and looked up at the steam, spun sugar against a night sky embossed with winking stars.
Disappearing into the tunnel was a small thrill. The pine branches pushed against the sides of the train, unwilling to yield ground. Civil war scenes were re-enacted along the edge of the woods:a sentry who boarded the train and checked us out suspiciously, making sure we all had tickets, a soldier cleaning his weapon by campfire light, a makeshift hospital where a doctor and two nurses labored over a patient, three cloaked women who seemed to float across a battlefield, searching for their fallen loved one, and a cemetery on the edge of a battlefield, white crosses lined up in a ghostly battle formation of their own.
I was enchanted. I thought of Twain and his stories,"punch, brothers, punch with care. Punch in the presence of the passenger" His ride with a corpse of very loud cheese...of what sights might have greeted me through the windows of a 19th century steam train. I wondered about plantations and carriages, about slaves and children running beside the train...would they wave? Might a slave look up from her toil and momentarily be charmed by the sight? Might she grace me with a smile, however brief, before turning her eyes back to the work before her?
I was carried away tonight. A snap in the October air and the sweet music of the steam train whistle...
Today I helped a man who would not lower his hand from his mouth, as if somehow he became frozen in a permanant "oh my," as if perhaps it will keep bad things out, or maybe to protect me from what was within...germs, despair, bad teeth, fear?
What happens to him after I bandaid his wants and quiet the jazz band in his empty stomach? Will he wake tomorrow with a seam from the backseat stitching itself across his cheek and nose? The tattoo of homelessness that draws no admiration from the people at the front of the lines he will stand in tomorrow.
Does he still hope? Real hope?
I do. I hope that his arm relaxes and his hand lowers to brush across the face of someone who cares for him. I hope that what's behind that hand is the smile he vowed he would not let get away.
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03:10 Feb 04 2008
We have a train around here as well the do a historic ride complete with a staged robbery(for charity)where everybody buys "casino money"that they give in th robbery.I have done short hops on freight trains as well something about feeling something so solid underneath you shake like that takes us back to the motion of the womb...
06:27 Jan 09 2009
I remember the phone call after this. Thank you for taking me back. :-)