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October 2014
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The Sound of the Train on the Morning

Sometimes, when it’s well into the morning and I haven’t slept yet, I stop what I’m doing to listen to the sound of the train. It sounds as if the tracks are lining the street outside my window, but I know from the various drives between home and the station that they are far, far away. The sound fills me with elation, cringing sorrow, nostalgia, and a mixture of steadiness and off-putting lack of balance. It reminds me equally of the trips away from and back to home.

I’ve lost more than one phone on the train, but only one instance stands out. It was after a visit to my family, heading home to my apartment. I can’t remember what the occasion was. A holiday. A birthday. Someone’s graduation. Either way the visit was joyous and I felt more welcomed than I had ever felt anywhere. But beneath that joy was the lingering anxiety that one day soon I would have to leave again to the place I called home at the time. I broke my glasses that last day in the embrace that finally recognized this anxiety though we’d tried so hard not to say it out loud. I didn’t care too much. They were on their last leg anyway.

Later that year I would experience tragedy and come home for good, but at this moment I didn’t know that. I would be traveling eight hours away over night with only the small comfort that the voices of my loved ones were a phone call away. That is until my phone decided to stay seated as I transferred trains. When I realized what had happened I could only visualize my phone as a friend going part of the way with me. “Don’t worry” it said, “We’re going the same way”. But as my stop came a surprised look would come across it’s face and with painful nonchalance it would turn to me and say, “Oh. I suppose we part ways here then.” Before waving goodbye and turning its gaze away from me as if I were a stranger. I was hurt and betrayed. How could it leave me? It was my only connection to home.

I would ride the rest of the way in a cruel agony. Where am I going again? Why am I going this way? I would be met by my aunt when I arrived back and I would cry harder that I had in a while. Harder than I had before leaving. Harder than I had on the train. She would comfort me then, but she would not understand. “I lost my phone” would simply translate to my materialism. Without context, the symbolism was lost and with it went the sympathy. She would feel concern for my claim to material objects and the stress it caused me to lose them. Of course, I’m not one who sees many things as necessary and so the objects I did own would have much value. Why then should it be wrong to mourn their loss? After all what you’re truly mourning is familiar action that can no longer be performed. If you needed such an action so greatly that your heart aches when you can’t have it then surely the object that carries out such a task is worth a few tears. I suppose my logic might be a bit skewed, but it mattered not since I wouldn’t use it to argue. We would simply go on like that.

All of this would later be a chunk of the memory of my time in Southern California. I would remember a few other things without much thought, but the rest would take effort as with most of my past. The only other train rides in my memory would be filled with anticipation and joy. Those were the trips here—to my home where my family is. It makes me wonder how I feel about the train. I suppose it’s like medicine. You only value it when you need it to help you. Since I’m home I don’t need the help of the train. The sound makes me think of the only thing it can do for me right now—take me away from here. The thought may make me cringe, but I can’t stop listening to the sound. Because despite the sad memories and suggestions it holds, it also reminds me of happy things. The anticipation of seeing loved ones. The assurance of coming home. The realization of an irreplaceable type of love. Family.

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