Clank. Clank. Clank.
Metal beat back and forth as the wheels moved across the track at their steady, rapid pace. The exterior was strong iron and steel, like a square, mobile version of what a knight would have worn. Lined in the center of each moving square was window after window, a perpetual picture show of the outside world for the passengers sitting tight on the faux leather seats.
They rocked in a steady motion along with the clanking, in a type of trance, a lull, in a seemingly bored fascination with the great outdoors, as seen to their right and their left. I however, due to the desire to distract myself, observed my fellow travelers, instead of the path we were crossing to arrive at our desired destination.
The young man behind me was boisterous, boastful, never lacking a kind word about himself. Tapping me on the shoulder, he proceeded to explain to me that my slouchy posture was an insult, and if I would only observe how he sat, I might be better off.
“Fellow improve your posture, you’ll never be respected if you don’t. By Zeus, were you raised in a barn?”
He then turned to the man beside him rambling on about the lack of elegance and breeding I must have been brought up in.
Rolling my eyes, I ignored the man, (for what good was giving an idiot attention?). I moved on to the next person.
She had golden, curly locks of hair,that the toddler in her arms twirled around his tiny finger. She must have been in her late twenties, same as me, and I liked the sight of her. She sat peacefully (as far as I could tell) reading her Bible. She seemed to be engrossed, fixed on the scripture she was reading. I quickly moved on at this observation, for I had no time for those types of people.
I observed the young man in the corner, must have been a vagabond, possibly straight out of high school. I noticed the scantily dressed woman across the aisle who was trying desperately to get the vagabond’s attention. Painted lips bright red, smoky, catlike eyes and breasts less than covered. I would gladly take attention from such a woman.
Unfortunately, she had her sights locked on another man, so I moved on.
I noticed a very old woman in the back of the train. She had to be at least eighty. She wore a white skirt, down to her ankles, and a jacket to match. She was a simple woman, opposite the flirtatious one I had just witnessed. She had a modest white lace cocktail hat on her head, but though it wasn’t intricate, it still looked too fancy for the rest of her attire.
She caught me studying her and a small smile escaped from her lips. She raised her very shaky hands and waved with gentle vigor. She looked like she wanted me to come over there, but I would avoid that for as I long as I could without hurting the old lady.
It didn’t last very long, as the bathroom was past her and I had to go. Going towards the bathroom, I was let pass, but on my way out, I was stopped.
“Hi there sonny, how are you today, dear?”
“I’m well. Thank you, ma’am.”
“Dearie, would you mind sitting a spell? A little old lady gets bored all alone on a train ride.”
Just the words I was trying to avoid, “sit a spell”. Unfortunately though, I had always possessed a soft spot for the elderly, which at that very moment, was getting me into trouble.
“Sure, that would be alright.” I slouched down a little in the seat, but only until the woman seemed a little hurt by my apathy towards her.
I decided to improve my posture, and I gave her a weak, yet sincere smile.
“What is your name, young man?”
“My name is John. What is yours, ma’am?”
“Anabel Goodwin. I am on my way to visit my son.”
“Where does he live?”
“Well, he doesn’t live anywhere. I’m visiting him, but at his grave. I have gone to see him every year on his birthday, since he died ten years ago. I do miss the boy.” Anabel sighed, but a smile returned to her face when she looked at me.
“You remind me of him. When I saw you walk onto the train I had to look again. I thought he was coming back to me. Yes, I miss Thomas.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Goodwin. Losing a loved one is terrible to deal with.” I stopped. I didn’t care much for talk of the dead, and right then, it felt like the worst thing in the world.
“Yes. It can be rather difficult, but a person learns to move on after years of mourning.”
“How do you get over something like that? How do you just forget that the person is forever out of your life?” I ran my fingers through my thick, dark hair, not understanding the woman “getting over” losing her son.
“You have to remember that death is part of life. If you spend your life thinking that people will always be there, you will suffer greatly. It comes with understanding that people are a blessing. Enjoy them while they are present. Become a better person from them, and then let them go when they are gone.”
I sat amazed. What were the odds? Why right now. Why did I have to meet this woman today? I remembered James. His slim figure, dirty blonde hair, and his kind spirit. Then I remembered those scared eyes, searching around the room, the dingy walled room the night of the accident. It haunted me. Death haunted me. I thought back to my mom, who said that things came by fate, and then to my dad, who always said it was part of a Divine plan, not just “fate”. If I were a believer in either one of those, I would have thought this was one of those times, whether Divine or fateful. Fortunately, I didn’t get into those myths, but that left a lot of unanswered questions for me.
Apparently, Anabel was psychic too. She read my mind and spoke my thoughts back to me, as if I had spoken all aloud.
“You know, life has to go on. You cannot live your life wishing you could have them back. They aren’t coming back. You have to live your life fully. It just has to be done without them there.”
She looked down at her skirt and began to smooth out the invisible wrinkles that seemed to be evident to her. Looking out the window, she sighed and then turned back to me.
Out of anger, no, jealousy, that’s what it was, I turned to her and spouted,
“And how does your husband feel about this? Does he not get angry with your optimism?”
I was immediately ashamed of my harsh words, but I had no idea the level of shame that was to come with what I heard next.
“Oh dear, my goodness, no. My Husband passed away three years before my son’s death. He was a wonderful man, and I miss him daily. Faith, and the love of other’s got me through when I lost him. I think his death prepared me for Thomas. He told me to live my life in joy even after he died, and so I did. I continued that after Thomas’ death.”
“So you have been alone for the past eleven years, and yet you still enjoy your life?”
“Not alone, John, I’m not alone. I have love. If I have love, I have hope, and if I have hope, I have life.”
Clank. Clank. Clank.
The train was slowing, but my head was still spinning.
The conductor yelled out, “Next stop, Edinston.”
I shook out of my rut long enough to recognize that this was my stop.
I looked at Anabel, her face peaceful, and radiating her gentle spirit.
“Goodbye, John. Thank you for accompanying me. I love talking to the youthful. I hope the rest of your journey is safe and accomplished.”
“Thank you, ma’am. It was nice to meet you. I hope your travels to see Thomas are safe as well.”
I got off the train, duffle bag in hand. I started to walk but I turned around and stared at the train. Anabel was looking out the window waving. I waved back and then went on my way. I would soon arrive at my destination: my brother’s funeral. When I got on the train, I was tormented, and felt the burden of the world. Now however, I see something poking out of the dark stormy world. I’m not sure what to call it, and I’m not sure yet if I want it, but there it is. Hope. Yes, it is hope perhaps.