I would never call myself an avid traveler because
I don’t avidly travel but that doesn’t mean I don’t
try to breathe when I sit on long train rides. It doesn’t mean I don’t
enjoy the way the tracks cross or the way the MTA workers laugh and wave at the conductor as he loses focus on the track ahead.
It’s a sensual ground.
I go on trips eight times before staying long enough to say look at me, I just calmly popped off that railway. Forget social interactions and terminals and having wonderful evening nights with the girl you admit to falling for, it was all about reacquainting myself with that leather seat again and the arm rest “that guy” keeps using. I knock myself out with protein bars and water bottles until I feel just as if I’m sitting on my blue couch at home. Imagine the rough leather rips as comfort and the fast pace scenery as a movie my mother turned on. But I memorize the stops, it helps me avidly travel. The traveler inside of me watches the train on the track nearby and looks at faces; “people watch” they call it. The traveler inside of me puts headphones in to take one bud out and tell the girl next to me, fanatically, that her stop is coming up. I frown at my own enthusiasm.
I flip through songs and podcasts I’ve listened to more than ten times. I pull up browsing pages that remind me that I can get on a railway and pretend to be one of these guys. Pages like;
TIPS FOR THE FEARFUL TRAVELER
EVERYBODY CALM DOWN
5 WAYS TO DECOMPRESS WHEN STRESSED
I now have tips and tricks that create a real person inside of me, less like a pregnancy more like a more improved self. I calm down once I’m on the train home. Not because I like it now, but because I finished the first eight rounds of trips and I can maybe stay a minute, watch a movie at the terminal, ask them to change the departure times to Dirty Dancing. I’ll make a home out of the waiting area where I could put my feet up on my empty luggage.
I try to see the train aisles as ones I remember; like hallways or cafeteria lines. But walking over to that leather seat reminds me of walking across a lunch hall with a tray in my hands and thinking about everyone watching; knowing I don’t fit in with the guys around, the people are stronger and eat more lunch meat than I can stomach. I’d start to bring my own lunch.
My ninth train ride over, I’m finally getting out, moving a few feet away from the terminal. The plan was set. Did I want to go to a movie in a theatre or lay in my lover’s childhood bed?
Several hours later, I’m on the train home.
The stops seem to pass faster. I’m tired from trial and error.
My stupid eyes can’t close, I sip on my water and listen to the same song I heard this morning. I know the workers now, they know my name and my state of mind. They smile and show their accomplishments on their caps. I photograph the beauty in my phobia,
the long railways with all those unlabeled boxes and silver containers.
The beautiful pins the conductor flaunts.
The orange vests reflected in the dark tunnels with bright white smiles from exhaustion.
The platform steps.
I think about the next time I’ll lay with her again. Maybe how I’ll stay the night and brave a weekend before sitting on the “home train.” Maybe I’ll feel the pinches in my chest again for this. Sit on ripped leather and fight for a well rested left arm again for this. I like hearing the name of the last stop, how perfectly heavy it sounds.