Waiting for a Train
A couple of days ago when the first heavy snows hit Chicago I was waiting for the last Metra train to take me back downtown from my cousin’s. It was about eleven-thirty and it was one of those nights when the world, blanketed by a thick layer of snow, seems incredibly dark and remote. One of those nights where you no longer feel humanity teeming all around you.
I was standing on the platform which instead of being raised like the ones I’m used to was just an old-fashioned strip of concrete between the tracks. Nearby was the skeleton of a little shelter under construction, but hidden under the snow like that it could have just as easily been a ruin. The surrounding plain was unmarred by footsteps and it looked like the remains of some large animal that had frozen to death there beside the tracks a long time ago.
There were probably about eight inches of snow on the ground and the powdery stuff was blowing every which way in thick flurries as I stood smoking a cigarette and staring down the tracks into the distance. My sense was of being outside the flow of time, and together with the fuzzy layer of snow covering Chicago this put me into a contemplative mood. Suddenly I thought of my old friend Dion, who killed himself about eight years ago by jumping in front of a train in Rotterdam.
When the police told Dion’s drug buddy and roommate Sander, the first thing that came to his mind was the need to find the place where it happened. He went down to the train tracks a mile or so from their apartment and started walking along the embankment.
After some distance he came across a pile of cigarette butts. There were about ten or fifteen of them and they were arranged so that they couldn’t have been thrown from a passing train. The butts bore the logo of a Hungarian brand that only the two of them smoked and Sander realized that Dion must have waited in that spot watching trains go by for an hour or so before stepping in front of a locomotive.
Sander’s girlfriend Eva and I had been sleeping together and he and I were not on speaking terms so I didn’t find out until after the funeral. Apparently it was a fine affair, but funerals have always seemed rather morbid to me anyway and the more of them you’ve missed the less point there seems in going to the next.
I stood smoking and watching the snow slowly erase the trail of footsteps I had left behind along the tracks, thinking about the past. I lit up another cigarette and waited there for a while until the piercing headlights and throaty horn of my train in the distance cut through the dark.
seconds or so the icicle-encrusted train screeched to a halt
in front of me in a storm of noise and snow. The doors opened and I
of the dark into the brightly lit car full of late-night travelers. I
the snow off my boots and found a place to sit down. When I was seated
I put on
my headphones and looked out the window, but my own reflection was the
thing I could see.