The massive elongation of perfectly aligned metal boxes screamed to a halt. Another long journey from LA to New York, another round of equally painful and triumphant stories, and another series of color-filled landscapes accompanied the rusted steel edges of the commuter train. It had been a rather rough ride this time around – rain storms, overwhelming humidity, and angry spousal exchanges that ended in more than one emergency stop. As it screeched to a stop, the little engine released a sigh of pent-up energy and exhaustion, looking forward to a few hours of repose before its return to the ever-land. The circuit was beginning to run dry and the doors and windows were in need of deep repair.
Not like the old days. The days of massive and powerful steam trains, heard and feared from afar and more than once the core subject of notorious heists and accidental near-misses of unconscionable children. Back when the chug of wheels on rails caused heads to turn and mothers to scream; when the metal of the train cars could receive the force of shotgun bullets without winking an eye.
Anymore, the only remaining fear of the passengers awaiting their ride on the padded and protected safety of the landing was the odd suicide. The moment of human weakness that left more than one commuter train scarred and branded for life.
The floors of this particular train were recklessly ripped and torn, the windows caked in cigarette smoke and the moist remains of belligerent drinkers. Initials, names, and slanderous quotes were etched into the fake laminate table tops – gone were the days of finely-waxed pine and delicately crocheted tablecloths.
Self-respect in the world of linked, gas-driven rail vehicles was at an all-time low. Another day, another thousand passengers, most barely aware of the awe that seethed through the spirit of most boys and girls upon riding their first train.
What had the world come to?
Just wait, the commuter insisted. Wait for the ways of healing sun to reach your skin. It will wash you clean in a way that pure water never can.