Where I am
I roll a cigarette as the train rumbles under me Ė two miles of solid boxcars headed through the flatlands.
After so many years of riding the rails, nothing surprises me any more.
But some things make me sad.
Such as the sign at the station we passed, paint pealing so bad I canít make out the name of the town.
Just paint on a green background with strips of metal like ribs beneath.
Since I like to know where I am if not where Iím going, the sign pissed me off, though the glimpse of the station as he passed through showed it was in as bad a shape as the sign.
So was the town.
The wind from the train whipping up loose paper the way winds out west did tumble weed.
Worn wood falling in on itself where buildings stand, so gray from lack of paint they seemed ghost-like, with bits of the distance mountains showing through the gaps.
I heard voices, but not who they belonged to, though louder sounds came up from farther along the tracks where new construction showed, locals giving up the ghost of this place and starting over nearer the highway where maybe traffic could sustain them now that the rails of gone to hell.
I close my eyes as the train passed through a concrete pavilion then out the other side, where a line of bulldozers waits for orders to move in and knock down the old town. Then, we pass though town of new hope, where men in orange hard hats wave at me out of boredom and sweat, catching my wave before my train rumbles into the wilderness of flatlands again, and the past and future become a duel line of polished rails stretching out into eternity one way, and back from eternity the other, with stones and dust to either side.
But even this world has its holdouts as we roll passed old farms out from under which the land has faded. I see old men still leading packs of horses over the rubble, cutting up the earth for seed that wonít ever last until harvest, drying up as fast as it is dropped, pathetic efforts by a pathetic people who pause to ponder the passing train as if all of them wished they could be me, traveling from here to there, tied to no town or ground, just the free air flowing through my hair.
Sure, I might die before the next station. I might fall off the train from old age and whither in a ditch. But for now, I just suck on my cigarette and breathe deep, hoping the next sign will tell me where I am at the moment.