Friday, 28 June 2013

The Train Ride

You open your eyes and you're riding on a train, chugging along serenely through the late afternoon.  Golden sunlight streams through the windows to your right, seemingly almost liquid on a warm and dry autumn day.  Dust motes glint in the light, and although you are moving along at great speed through the open grassy lands of the great Canadian prairie, it is as if time has slowed to a stop.  You feel the light on your skin like a physical weight, comforting rather than oppressing.  The thrumming of the train car soothes your weary mind and your thoughts drift into nothingness.  This moment may be fleeting or it may last a hundred years.

Suddenly your forward momentum begins to fade, and as if from a great distance you hear the squeal of asbestos on metal as the train you find yourself on slows towards a station.  A dry and dusty outpost, the station stands alone, deserted in the great yellow-green expanse of flat, flat land.  Splashes of purple, white and yellow resolve into wildflowers growing amongst the grass as the train eases to a stop at this lonely way-station.  The sky above is a brilliant deep blue, hinting at violet.  You can see two fluffy white clouds that hang unmoving in the becalmed expanse, as if in a storybook or on a painted movie backdrop from days long past.  In the grass near the gleaming silver of the train tracks, you spy a robin, who pauses in his busy day to regard this man-made interruption with a quizzical eye.

As you peer out of your window you happen to see a man step off the train onto the old-fashioned wooden platform of the train station.  A woman holding a toddler stands to one side, short and pretty in sundress and ponytail.  The man lifts his hand in greeting.  You watch the pair as they fall into step one with the other, walking away from you and your transitory train-bound state.  The little toddler, a sunny blond girl with blue eyes and a dimpled smile, looks back over her mothers' shoulder and makes eye contact with you, in the unselfconscious way that only a very young child seems able to manage.  The man places his hand fondly on his woman's shoulder.  She leans into him in an almost imperceptible way, and he enfolds her and the child both in the protective shelter of his arm.  She tilts her head to rest momentarily against his shoulder and he acknowledges the kindness with a kiss placed atop her head.  They walk away thus, away from their time of separation and loneliness, away and into a state of togetherness formed in one perfect moment.  You bear mute witness. 

As you watch the young family wander off into their life, the train whistle blows and the doors slide closed.  Once again you are on your way, traveling to a destination and to a destiny unknown.  Perhaps you feel a tear slide down your cheek as you consider the scene of warmth and belonging you've so recently witnessed.  Perhaps one day you will be so lucky.  Perhaps one day you will find your way home.


  1. now i really want to take that train ride across Canada! thanks Mike! beautifully written!

    1. thanks! I wanted to play with "2nd person" narrative...