There is a staggering statistic of people who die just before they make it home.
I have been sitting here for days.
Unmoving over this vast distance.
There is an old man that sits across from me staring out the window.
He approached me this afternoon, motioned for me to take out my headphones. When I did, he asked if he could speak with me for a moment. Off my guard, I can only imagine my agreement to this proposal must have appeared awkward at best. He tells me he was on a long journey to visit a friend he hasn’t seen in a very long time. His words are highlighted by his accent (which he seems to immediately acknowledge as though he is sitting inside my own head) when he tells me he is from Puerto Rico. I think back on the time I had spent there exploring Old San Jaun and drinking Pina Guava for breakfast. I manage a smile and nod while he continues, undeterred.
"I am going to see a friend I have not seen in.. ohhh.. a very long time, I think… since 1962? I met him when I visited Florida. And HIS name, is Mickey Mouse!"
I laugh and I can feel myself ease for a moment. Something about the whimsy and insanity is almost comforting and familiar.
He asks me where I’m going, and I tell him. Turns out we will be shuffled off this electric coil at the same stop. He asks me if I know how to get to LA or Anaheim from where we will be.
I tell him I don’t know how to get anywhere, anymore. He tells me again the friend he is going to visit is “Mickey Mouse!”
"I am George. It is nice to meet you,
My mind is beginning to unravel.
As it turns out, hours before I left, I ran head first into a brick wall. I felt the weakness of every brittle bone while I crumbled from the impact. I even apologized for being so careless. The countdown to this departure suddenly became an ignition sequence, and since that moment I’ve been holding my breath and waiting for the rockets to give way so I might float weightlessly through the darkness of all the blankets on my bed.. catching fleeting glimpses of the tiny holes of light poking through the fabric like distant stars. Waiting for the warmth of the sun as she comes for me.
I am so close. Maybe even seconds away. 14 billion.
But, the truth is, I have days left… 30 billion.
If only I could hold out just a bit longer… Not sit here and kick at the bricks.
George occasionally snaps some pictures out the window. Just moments ago, I caught him snapping some pictures of himself.
My ears keep popping in and out with the changes in elevation. Every tunnel takes a minute or two to adjust my eyes. When the train goes quiet, the silence is enough to make me panic… I type faster just to hear myself still in this seat. The sun is setting.
I am waiting for them to call my dinner reservation. The fact that I am starving is keeping me from blasting music in my skull to drown out the sound of me coughing.. or the sound my eyes make as they re-read every condemning line my fingers have built for them. A long labyrinth made from an ever descending staircase of broken thoughts and poor grammar.
This darkness is deafening. I almost can’t even hear the elderly gasp their diminishing moments of consciousness.
I’m starting to think I have been forgotten. Maybe my name was misplaced.
Who is he taking those pictures for? For his family? Why aren’t they here with him?
Maybe they are just for him. A reminder, perhaps. A moment of impact.
I wonder if in these lonely houses visible from the tracks, they tell stories of ghost trains in the night.
The strings between my hands and my head are a tangled nest.
I just forced air through my ears and the rumbling of the train is making my jaw tremble.
I hear an elderly woman telling her husband that he doesn’t hear her.
Has it been this loud the whole time?
I think George is finally asleep.
An announcement just came over the PA stating the dining cart is now closed, and will be open again for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Now, even my phone is searching for a signal. It makes me uneasy to think a decimal place can become the end of a sentence.
The windows are black.
I hear the slow creaking of wheels in the darkness.