Bah! My phone is dead, and this car is packed; well, more than usual anyway. There are only three seats left, and one is covered in trash and the other one’s gotta briefcase on it. I hate trash. And hate briefcases even more. The one next to the old lady doesn’t seem too terrible. I guess I’ll get by if I pop my headphones in, even with my dead battery. Can’t have grandma there thinking it’s ok to talk to me or something.
“This is the train to Weaverville. Stopping at Roosevelt, Ringlwald, Forestgate, Greenville…”
Typical, itchy cloth seat. When will they get with the times and make the upgrade to sterile plastic coverings? Seriously, it’s disgusting. And it turns out grandma smells like a grandma, has already passed out for a train nap, and is starting to snore. I wish my headphones were playing something for real.
At least I’m out of school for the day. My third week of missing 4th period gym class and no one has yet to notice. Or at least not notified my parents about it. Not like they’d care much anyway. They pay too much for me to go to school; so much that I’ll never really get into trouble for much. Plus, my grades are not half bad. Could be better, but again, school’s no big deal. Not to me anyway.
“This is Roosevelt Station.”
Bah, someone is eating dead rats, I’m sure of it because I can smell it. I mean, I’m sure it’s leftover Chinese food or leftover something, but it smells like dead something. Doesn’t everyone know not to eat crappy food in a train car? We all suffer. I can’t see who it is because the car is full; could be anyone really. Aside from sleeping grandma here and the dude across the aisle from me. He’s too busy chatting away on his phone, another train car faux pas if you ask me. All this would be fine, or at least tolerable, if my phone was alright and functioning. But seriously, snoring grannie, dead rat leftovers and loud phone talker here are too much for me to take.
It’s why I need to get out of school, and out of the city in the first place. It’s all too much for me. The place I’m heading now is this cool spot I heard about from my buddy who gets out of the city on weekends with his dad to camp. Unlike the rest of us restricted city kids, he has actually experienced time in the real outdoors, and gets to almost every weekend. The only thing the rest of us ever do is herd in masses for 4+ hour car-rides every Friday to the coast. It’s all the same people, and all the same dramas, but our parents love it and consider it vacation – justified solely because we’re beachside. Kills me really.
But like I said, my buddy goes to this spot instead, and had told me it was awesome. So, two weeks ago, when I knew 4th period gym class was going to be more useless weight lifting and whatnot, I decided to ditch it and check out the spot instead. It’s about a two-hour train journey from the city, but who cares? And even if the train ride is long, doesn’t matter. It’s worth it. The spot rocks. And that’s why I’m heading there again. If it were up to me, I’d stay there and never come back.
“This is Ringwald Station.”
Oh God please just let everyone get off now, or at least the big offenders... Leftover dude? Phone guy? No? Bah, seriously!? Can’t I just get a break?
“Stand clear of the closing doors.”
Whatever. At least grandma’s not bothered, but her snoring is still bothering me. The Travel India Now ad behind her head looks enticing. I’ve heard a lot about India from an exchange student in my history class, Vasavi or something. She’s always going on and on about India, the people and the land and all. She makes it sound really busy, like a lot of people everywhere all the time, but she also talks about the land like it’s got its own soul, or something zany like that. She did this report and went on and on about this special Buddhist temple or something, and how when she went there, she could feel peaceful energy coming from the Earth. But when she’s here, she feels like that energy is trapped underneath the concrete – and all that energy is apparently too much for trapping – so we all feel it in our souls instead and run around like crazy rats all day. I find this fascinatingly ridiculous, but she would talk about it with such confidence, like it was gravity or the Earth being round or something factual like that.
“This is Forestgate Station.”
Grandma’s not budging. Maybe I should wake her up. I hope she’s not getting off at my stop. I bet she would just want to talk, or worse, have me join her to keep her from being lonely. She looks lonely. Well, really, she looks tired. But I wonder if she has anyone in her life aside from fellow train-riders like me. And that dude is still yelling into his phone. I wonder if he works for my mom’s firm. He’s yelling into the phone like she does.
I wonder what will happen when mom and dad find out that I’ve been bunking gym for the great outdoors? I bet they won’t understand. Who am I kidding? I know they won’t understand. They’re already pissed about me not caring about grades, or the city, or for not being overjoyed like they are for our fake weekend getaways. They’re pricy and all, and flashy and all that, but to me it’s no different from everyday life. So, what makes it a getaway? At least on this train I’m heading somewhere different.
“This is Greenville Station”.
Bah, yes! Phone dude is getting up! Thank you thank you, and see you, eh, never again. And…
Oh wow, hi there, pretty lady, who’s been sitting quietly this whole time, overshadowed by loud phone guy. What’s a pretty girl like you doing on a train mid-day, mid-week? Oh, you could say the same to me, you say? Well, wouldn’t you like to know? In fact, would you like to know? Would you like to come with me, to my most favorite place that I just discovered only 2 weeks ago? It’s our state’s biggest secret, and I’d be happy to show you if…
“This is Westerville Station.”
Bah, this is your stop. Alright then. Had you traveled just a bit further, I might have gathered enough courage to actually talk to you… Quick smile then? Eye contact, maybe? No? Alright then, your loss. And honestly, you’re probably too old for me, anyway. But then again, I’m a mature guy. 14 going on 40 my cool gramps says. He thinks I’m wise, despite my grades and my parents’ opinions. He’s the only one that gets me. It’s ok though, because I’m the only one who gets him.
And anyway, my stop is next. Thank god, as the dead-rat-smell-grandma-snore combo is really getting to me. I wonder if I should let grandma here know, in case she has to get off and all.
“This is Rockwall Station.”
Sweet freedom, thank you Jesus. Smelly food guy is getting up too. Well, doesn’t matter now, now does it? At least grandma won’t suffer any more. I wonder if she smells while she snores.
“Stand clear of the closing doors.”
Bah, alright, alright, tricky train doors, I’m out already. This is such a second-rate station. No wonder stinky food man lives in this junky town. I wonder if he even knows what’s beyond those walls like I do.
There’s an official entrance to this state park, but you need a car to get there. So, I asked my buddy about it, and he told me if I get off at this station, I can just jump the wall on the other side of the parking lot, and I’ve got a free ticket to the world. That’s what he said, a free ticket to the world. And he’s right, to me anyway. The first time I took the trail up I knew what he meant. It’s like you can see all of Earth from the top.
I tried telling my dad once that downtown in the city is weird because it’s so vertical. “You can’t see the sky, ever.” I told him. He told me to look up but I said it’s not the same, because when I look up, I only get a rectangle cutout of the sky.
But when I get to the top of the hike here, I feel like I’m standing in the center of a snow-globe, but like with no snow. So much horizon; I never knew it existed. Well, I’d notice it sometimes out on the shore, but here I’m on top of the world. So close to the atmosphere. The ocean is alright too I guess, but this is different. Better, I think.
Out here I can listen. I really can, because it’s quiet enough to hear things. I mean, right now I can still hear the crappy traffic and trains from town and such, but this far out its all muffled, like background noise to my tramping feet. And soon the bugs and bees buzzing will be even louder than phone guy, believe it or not.
I never listen in the city. There is just too much sound all the time, too much of everything all the time really, so what’s there to hear?
My parents freak out about nature. They worry about getting dirty and getting lost and bears and bugs and whatnot. But when I ask about scary stuff in the city like murderers or terrorist attacks or stress killing your heart from working too much, they don’t seem troubled by these things at all.
Now here’s where the hike gets intense. Like, really intense. It’s almost a vertical climb. I can’t hear nature as much as I hear my own huffing and struggling. I thought I was in pretty good shape until I came out here. Maybe I should start skipping math instead of gym. I could train my legs and one day run up this mountain. But not today. It’s alright though. The feeling I have when I get to the top is worth any challenge. Even smelly dead rat food…
Oh man, here it is. So ridiculous that such a perfect place exists. Third time up and the view still gets me. Probably will forever. It only takes me about a half hour to hike up here, but today I’m going to stay long. Maybe forever. It’s not a cloudy day, and for the first time I can see it all. I thought I had before. But I was wrong. Today’s the day.
There’s not too much shade up here, but there’s one spot I found where a few trees are starting to grow back leaves, and last week I saw – yep, here they are – blackberries starting to grow. And they are here today, blooming I bet to celebrate my city jailbreak.
My dad was telling me at dinner once, how he was helping with some research work over at the big deal university and all. He said they were isolating some compound in blackberries that might help with Alzheimer’s in mice or whatever. I asked him, “Why do they have to isolate anything? Isn’t the whole blackberry important?” He sneered and told me, “Son, you would know this if you paid attention in school. The scientific method is imperative to…”. Blah blah blah. I know all about the method, but still, it’s a joke. As if you could ever control enough of everything else to create true isolation.
My dad would think this was isolation, being up here all by myself. But I disagree, as I always do with him. I don’t even know how we are related. And in any case, it’s not being here by myself that feels isolating. It’s in the city where I feel so alone.
With all the noise, I can’t listen.
With all the lights, I can’t see.
And in the city, even with all the people, I can’t connect. At all.
Isolation. Bah! If there’s anywhere to be isolated, it’s in the city.
A whole blackberry is the only thing that makes sense to me.
Being here, on top of the whole world, is the only thing that makes sense to me.
I wonder what the girl from the train would think of this place?
I wonder what Vasavi would think of this place? I don’t even know if I have a soul or whatever, but if she is right about her crazy, “the land has soul” theory, then I would guess this place is pulsing for sure.