When it begins it is like a light in a tunnel, a rush of steel andsteam across a torn up life. It is a low rumble, an earthquake in theback of the mind. My spine is a track with cold black steel racing onit, a trail of steam and dust following behind, ghost like. It feelslike my whole life is holding its breath.By the time she leaves the room I am surprised that she can’t see thetrain. It has jumped the track of my spine and landed in my mothers’living room. A cold dark thing, black steel and redwood paneling. Itis the old type, from the western movies I loved as a kid.He throws open the doors to the outside world, to the dark ocean. Ifeel a breeze tugging at me, a slender finger of wind that catches atmy shirt. Pulling. Grabbing. I can feel the panic build in me, theneed to scream or cry rising in my throat.And then I am out the door, running, tumbling down the steps fallingout into the darkened world, falling out into the lifeless ocean. Outinto the blackness. Out among the stars and shadows.And underneath my skin, in the back of my head and down the back of myspine I can feel the desperation and I can feel the noise. I can feelthe deep and ancient ache of loudness that litters across my bones.It’s like an old lover, comfortable and well known, but unwelcome andinappropriate with her stories of our frolicking.And then she’s gone and the Conductor is closing the door. Thedarkness swells around us, enveloping us in a cocoon, pressing flatagainst the train like a storm. I wonder, what is this place?Those had been heady days, full and intense. It’s funny. I rememberthe problems, the confusions and the fears of life we all dealt with.But, that all seems to fade. It all seems to be replaced by images ofthe days when it was all just okay. We all had plans back then,patterns in which we expected the world to fit, how it was to bedeciphered.Eventually you just can’t carry yourself any longer, can’t keep youreyelids open and can’t focus on anything but the flickering light ofthe stars. Hours pass, at first slowly like a river and then all in arush, a climax and I am home in the dorm, waking up to the ringing ofthe telephone.When she is gone the apartment is silent, empty, almost like a personsleeping, waiting to wake up. When she is gone and I am alone, I curlup on the bed, wait for the house to eject me from its dying corpse.Crazy thoughts cross through my head, like slants of light in anattic.The Boston 395 rocks a bit, a creaking noise spilling in from theundercarriage. I have decided that whatever this place is, all thesenoises, sensations - all the train-ness of this place - is afabrication. It lulls you into a sense of security, allows you to feelas if it’s a familiar place. But whatever it is, it’s not a train, orat least not just a train.The air, heightened, tense against the glass. I can hear the squeak ofshoes on linoleum, I can hear the soft rattle of a dying man’sbreathing. Men in white uniforms, sharp pressed lines, run past,rolling gurneys down florescent hallways.
Jason Derr