I’ve been working on a short story for years about a friendship slipping into an unfamiliar place. One of these days I’ll fish it out of the muck. In my book (ha), trains are good places for writing, and good places to write about. I don’t feel the same way about airplanes, where you enter a sort of stasis between points A and B. This introductory portion was inspired by the Northeast Corridor, the stretch of rail between New York and DC.
A jolt over the old join in the rail dislodged the book from my hand. It was useless, that book, this attempt to read. I let it go; I did not pick it up. Such blowing litter in my mind, bits of tweed and scraping leaves. I stared out the train window, a scene anemic in the pale autumn sunshine, each image sliding by me a story of epic loss. Nine rails withered into four, and overhead, brittle wires dangled over abandoned boxcars. Concrete shards littered the dirt. Such sparkling abandonment by those workers, the capital, the ideas; they were now gone, and I didn’t see them coming back. What had we looked like when we were new? It was likely that we had never been new. The trash, the litter of peoples’ lives. The view was exquisite; I sat there open-mouthed, gaping and fixed, like I was watching porn. The yogurt cups, the motor oil containers, empty cigarette packs, the split second decisions to push things away, to chuck them onto the rail. Things left to deteriorate. Fortunate is the one to recognize their own deteriorations prior to collision with them. Do such people exist?
The train was picking up speed.