I wrote this on the train Saturday. It's true:
Wet roads, brown, January grass. A smoky lumber mill. Weeds and litter. Broken houses. The Golden Rule grocery store.
The train I’m riding to Portland has just hit and killed someone. We stopped suddenly. The smell of hot metal searing our nostrils.
I find myself thinking now, I hope it’s not a child. But then, I hope it’s not a mother or a father or a brother or sister either. And it is someone.
I see nothing of the accident. I only hear the conductor coming over the intercom, giving us an update every quarter hour. He is sighing, affected. An investigation is ensuing. The body is being removed. “The Mess”, as the conductor refers to it, is being cleaned up.
My fellow travelers seem curiously unmoved. They laugh and eat, assuming it's a suicide and therefore, unworthy of their sympathy. I hear one young guy, after a long time of sitting on our motionless train, exclaim that they should just scoop up the remains and get on with it.
An embittered sixty-something man across the aisle from me checks his watch every few minutes, updating his wife. At the two-hour mark he mutters, “Jesus!” I try to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he’s traveling to visit a sick family member, perhaps he’s hoping to catch a flight out of PDX. But then I hear his wife on her cell phone and their plans, it seem, are social in nature. So we are late. “At least you’re not dead,” I want to snap.
I try to write and listen to Ani Difranco on my ipod and watch the on-board movie (The Nanny Diaries) but I am distracted by images of what lies one car and an engine ahead of us.