The insurmountable feelings were climbing the walls of her brain. Breathe...breathe...breathe... pray...pray...pray. She could feel her heart pound, it’s as if she were a human drum and there were thin wooden sticks with round, marble sized tops and they were tapping, then pounding intermittently. Why won’t it stop, she clenched her teeth, each row upon each other, top and bottom, locked. She said to herself, if I can’t open my mouth, I can’t scream.
The sounds have begun, it was like forced air, the familiar sound telling the passengers that the brakes are being deployed and soon the train will come to a stop. I can unclench my teeth now, she can feel the ache in her jaw, just below her ears. It’s like the soreness in her head after a migraine, except clenching so much will probably result in losing some teeth or another unaesthetic outcome.
The car she’s sitting in is unloading, people stepping off are going to work, visiting, traveling, going about their business. She thought since the day was rainy, most people would stay home, but that didn’t seem to happen. No one suspects the turmoil she’s feeling. The doctors say it’s anxiety. Since she refuses medication, the only way to free herself from these feelings is to desensitize herself by doing the very thing that makes her feel unraveled which for her is anywhere she has no control, such as a train.
She decides to move her seat, since availability has made an appearance. I think I’ve tried every seat in the car, and all the other cars as well, even her thoughts sound defeated. For the past three weeks she’s been riding this train, listening to the bells, whistles, steam trumpets or brakes, the sounds of the wheels turning as they play the same song over and over again, they go round and round. She waits so long that waiting has turned into her new sport. She waits for the train to depart, she waits for passengers to get on, get off, she waits for the peace to comfort her like a warm blanket or hot cup of tea. The only time she feels the peace is when the train stops, it’s as if she’s handed a new opportunity to try again. She settles on a seat near the top of the car, it’s slightly worn, so that gives her the idea that many people have enjoyed a delightful trip in this seat. The brown leather has begun to crack and is beginning to lose its color in the seat area. The back of the seat is still richly brown and barely matches the seat anymore. It makes me think that the passengers who sit here mostly lean forward, or maybe the back has been newly upholstered. She continues to think of other reasons for the difference in worn leather, mostly because it takes up her thoughts. She surmises that, it could be from heat or sweat, our bottoms have more heat than our backs, that’s another possibility, I mean, I think. She watches the rain fall and hit the pavement outside, a few drops find their way on the windows, but only in certain spots, where the wind has changed the raindrops course.
The train is becoming full again, this time there’s more children. Youngsters bring a new kind of cacophony one hears on a train. Little ones often cry, or laugh, and sometimes giggle. Giggling is her favorite sound and it’s different from a laugh. Laughter is long and hard, it involves deep breaths of air to produce its sound, but giggling is small amounts of air and comes out high pitched, rapid and in short sounds, some might even say like a water sprinkler. Children have the edge on giggles, it’s so natural and innocent, it was her favorite part of being a child. As a child, her father would tickle her, and the giggling would begin, sometimes it was hard to breathe. But after a good giggle, her body would always feel as if she’d ran a mile in two minutes. The children find their seats near the adults they came in with, they’re wearing rainboots and warm coats. It seems that they’ve been splashing in puddles because she hears some of them being scolded for being so wet. She heard one woman say to her child, “next time you’ll wear several jackets, that way we can peel them off like layers every time you jump in a puddle.”
She sits near the window and wonders who will sit in the other two seats. Sometimes she plays a game in her head, she tries to guess what kind of individual will share her row: male, female, young, old, chatty, quiet, there’s so many choices. A woman, possibly in her early 30s takes the seat, she’s holding a baby in a lovely pink blanket, probably a baby girl, she thinks. The woman begins to place her purse and what looks to be a diaper bag on the seat between them.
“Oh, is it ok if I use this seat for my things? Is someone sitting here? She asks apologetically.
“Go ahead, it’s fine. These trains don’t allow much room for our belongings,” she answers sweetly. No one would know I’m an anxious nut case by my voice. “Your baby is beautiful,” she says as she gazes at the sleeping infant.
“Thank you, she’s my first, possibly my last,” the woman laughs. “Do you have children?” It’s as if the question was planned, like she sat down next to her, just to ask this question.
“No, I’m not even married,” why do I feel I have to add more information, does it matter that I’m not married? she asks herself.
“Well, luckily you don’t have to be married to have a baby, otherwise I would not have had my little one,” she looks at her baby adoringly.
“Oh, I didn’t mean you have to be married, there’s nothing wrong with having a baby and not being married...” the words came out of her mouth awkwardly.
“I know what you mean,” the young woman’s words put her at ease. “Where are you headed to, work?” she added hoping it would break the mild tension between them.
“No, just going for a ride,” she answered back hoping she didn’t think she was some kind of a train groupie.
She didn’t have to worry about chatting with the young mother because the air became thick with sounds from a crowded train: talking, crying, young children’s laughter, mothers’ voices. The sounds were making her feel trapped, this is how it starts, she fears. Don’t give into it, take deep breaths, she feels a small current make her jerk just a bit when the train starts to move. She checks her watch, 2:20pm, on time, I just have to get through the next 43 minutes until my stop to get off.
“Is anyone sitting in that seat,” a young woman points to the seat between the ladies.
The young mother takes her belongings off the seat, “No, you can have it,” she smiles.
“Thank you, it’s not for me though, it’s for my mother. She’s older and can’t stand for too long,” she guides a small woman, probably no taller than fiver feet, it would be hard to believe that she would be under the age of 80. What is really noticed by all, is this woman looks like she just came from a funeral, she’s only wearing black, from her shoes to her rain hat.
After the young woman makes sure her mother is comfortable, she stands close to their row and notices they’re looking at her mother’s appearance. She says to the ladies, “my mother has been wearing black ever since my brother died,” she says to clear up any questions they may have. “She also does not speak any English, Portugukese is her only language”.
The young mother holds onto her baby, as if holding her tight will ensure she will never have to feel the pain of losing a child. “How long ago did your brother pass away?” she asks the lady standing.
“Over 30 years ago,” both women feel the sadness like a bullet ricocheting from one to another.
For the past 20 minutes I haven’t thought of my anxiety or screaming, or even to breathe deep. It’s because I’ve been thinking of this lady sitting next to me, the pain she must feel every day. I guess that is the secret, to think about something else, something to take up my thoughts.
The sounds start to feel as if they’re suffocating her, she tells herself, if I completely make my body calm, I can’t panic. She pictures a ball bouncing down the stairs, gently, softly, slowly it bounces, tap, tap, tap. Why do I feel this way, why can’t I enjoy a train ride? Everyone’s’ talk and laughter turns into a big pot of words, blending together, like different colors creating one big color when she hears someone say loudly, “look!”
Even the babies stop crying, the children are pointing, and the adults are in awe. She looks through the window to where they’re all staring. She sees the sun brightening up their world, it’s as if a lamp has been switched on. The passengers all seem to agree with her, she can hear their amazement is gasps, as they watch the sun awaken from a deep slumber. The heat is not felt yet, but what everyone is really stunned by is the colorful reminder of the day’s rain, a rainbow. The huge arch reaches from one side of the city to the other and the only thing more breathtaking than its size are the colors. Some passengers pull out their phones and try to capture its beauty, though it’s not likely that photographs will ever fully captivate the spectacular sight.
A warmth grew inside of her, the peacefulness subdued her frightful feelings, her body was calm and she felt like any other passenger, at last.