A crescent moon briefly illuminates the slow moving clouds of an exhausted Nor’Easter and in the present shadows, steam rises from cracks unseen beneath the tracks.
It is quiet, long past rush hour, few populate this damp platform and those who do, shuffle and half shiver in wait. Through the mist, the last train of the evening finally emerges, backing slowly … a surreal image conjured from perhaps any city in the world: Milan, Düsseldorf, Istanbul, Paris.
I stand now at shoulder with an elderly gentleman whose enthusiastic approach disguised his pronounced limp. He gazes past me at the approaching machinery with patient anticipation and a somewhat mysterious admiration.
A woman and perhaps her niece nudge past us and the cordoned rope with their rolling suitcases. The gentleman’s eyes divert now and slowly follow . . .he shakes his head softly and whispers: ‘let them do their thing, let them brakes cool … ain’t more than a dozen on this platform and she can accommodate close to two hundred – ain’t no rush…’
A tired looking engineer saddles his backpack and approaches . . . only to have his gait halted as he looks out our way:
‘Joneses, that you?!?’
A bear hug fitting for an avalanche survivor, my companion on the platform is now suddenly twenty something years younger, asking questions about so and so: (‘Mike, Todd, Butch … whose running the yard now, etc…’)
To his ears: ‘long gone…I am twenty-five years..last of the crew…how’s that leg holding up? I had just started when it happened … if you don’t mind my asking?’
‘Leg’s fine, mind you none. Why I was’n a damn fool back then days. We’d run in front of them switches, I think #5 or 7 was the trickiest … ‘member training that young conductor, umm forget her name now, but we were out there by them switches after a shift – you know how we did back then – crossing the yard to the shack for a drink, all did it…..train come along out’a nowhere…’
(I have not moved and they seem to welcome that I am staring in to listen)
‘ I don’t see nothing, switch five I think it was, mess my leg up real good…end of the line that was for me and these here rails…’
his voice slipping off just a notch…
‘…she slipped on past and was just fine, all that mattered then. I sure miss it though….’
I have gently moved away now and hear not the parting words, I know to be genuine, from a brotherhood I’ll never experience and find my seat by a window.
Sent from 🚂 📞 . . .
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