The Continental Train
The air is soggy heat and nothing more. It hangs like a blanket. I sit on a damp bench and wonder if I look mysterious, waiting for a train by myself, a lonely midnight passenger in a gleaming, thrilling night. I like to think sometimes that I am a mysterious person, who people see and then see in their dreams without remembering that they knew me.
It is hard to describe the type of night it is. It is the night where you catch sight of an old brick building which you have seen a million times before, but now it is in the rain and there are lights around it and it looks like somewhere else, a city you have never seen. It is the feeling of somewhere else, crushing and lonely and wild. It’s not really raining; it is the moment between waking and sleep, when you’re not really sleeping or waking, but being aware. It is raining, but the rain stops falling as soon as I look at it.
The train pulls into the station as if it had always been there and I had not noticed. Nobody gets off, because there is only one place anyone ever goes when they board the Continental Train, and it is impossibly distant and vast and meaningless, a light from far away which you see through rain, which is burning in sad splendor on a lonely pier. That is the destination of the Continental Train. This is just a long, dark road in the night where people drive and wonder where they’re going. I remember standing up and boarding the train and sitting in my car, an almost empty car of an almost empty train, and I don’t remember much else. I don’t know if I think at all.
There are no windows in this car because it is coach, but only plastic indents where windows should be, as if to remind us of what we are missing. I do not want windows because I have never wanted windows, and when I have been given windows against my will, I am only filled with longing for the things I didn’t want to see. Through windows are worlds we cannot touch. I do not want to see them.
There are two others in the car who look at me and who seem like a dream. I am never alone when I flit like a bird from one place to another, even though I desperately want to be. There always must be someone.
They sit together and they both have brown eyes, but one pair is restless and dreamy and the other is careful and observant. One pair is young and wide and wears a pale head with a crown of silver-blond threads upon its head, and the other is tired and ancient, and sits in a garden of glimmery thin brown vines. They both look like ghosts to me, lonely strangers in an endless night, and I think that they are more beautiful than people can be.
I am so lonely.
The train pulls away from the station slowly, waiting for people who will never come. Maybe it will never leave the station at all, but wait forever for those missing passengers, trapped souls who have lost their tickets or who are kept behind by old lovers, sad friends. Maybe it has always been there, waiting for its lost souls, and I have just now boarded for myself. Maybe I am the last passenger it waited so dutifully for, and now it can pull away from the restless city and the empty night and fly into the shining light of beyond this world.
I close my eyes with feather lightness against the utter grayness of the car, and feel the breaking hearts of the passengers who never came as the train sidles up its lonely track and into the brilliant lostness of the night. We are in the air and supported by a thin metal beam which I have always thought is made out of bones. The air of the car is still and cold.
When I open my eyes next, the two others souls, who I think must be sisters, are leaned against each other and are caught by a restless sleep, dreams with threaten to take them from this world forever; they are only kept together by their gentle grip of each other. I watch them for a moment before falling into my own torrid dreaming, with no one there to keep me to myself.