The train for anywhere

For D.L. who dreamed of riding the rails.

There are days, no matter how happy you are, when you just feel like going. Anywhere. Every plane that crosses overhead represents a possible escape and a potential surprise destination. “That person, looking down weightlessly from seat 14A—that person could be me,” you think.

The spirit is a restless thing. Sometimes it just needs to know that there’s an evacuation route, a road to adventure, even if, in the end, it never buys the ticket to ride. So my soul is grateful to Italy for its ubiquitous trains and tracks, its stations and platforms—all those physical reminders that if one needed to run away, if even for just a day to clear one’s head, one could.

Meters from our house under the road that takes us to the baker and the butcher, the veterinarian and the pharmacy, the schools and the park, lie the railroad tracks. I cross them numerous times a day, and every single time I look down their seductive parallel lines, diminishing hazily toward someplace else. And often, my reverie is interrupted by one or more passing trains, their speed seeming to accelerate as they approach the space under my feet. There is a moment, as they fly beneath, that time seems to stop. A moment in which a rumbling invitation is instantaneously issued: “Are you coming?” they ask. “Not this time,” I say. “But maybe next time.” And then, if I’m lucky, there is a low whistling, quickly fading response distorted by speed, and the train is gone.

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