Pictures from a Train

I took the train yesterday and for four hours sat by the window watching the soft New England landscape roll by, city street slowly giving way to salt marsh with ocean just beyond.

Providence and Westerly, Mystic and New London and then city again: New Haven and Bridgeport, the glass towers of Stamford, once-tony New Rochelle and finally the edges of the nation’s biggest city, its old churches and school houses, and traces of the abandoned factories and little storefronts, the stoops and body shops that once pinned these old neighborhood together.

I sat next to the window and watched it all roll by, our land, my land as I think of it, where my people lie buried back to the 1850s, some here in this factory town, some there by that mill, victims of the old killers TB and diphtheria, scarlet fever and childbirth.

It was lovely . And then an hour from my destination, a man traveling clear through to Baltimore came aboard and sat beside me. “May I have this seat?” he asked.

“I don’t bite,” he added, before I had come out of my trance enough to say yes. I couldn’t think of a reply to that remark, the patronizing air of it, the faint insult of it so he stumbled on: “That’s not to say I won’t snore or drool heh heh.”

Again I was speechless. I tried to make myself smaller, gather in my possessions against these eventualities. I wished I were still alone and felt mightily irked  – until he did in fact fall asleep, so deeply that I had to wake him when the train came to my stop.

He offered to help me get down my bag and sent me off with a “Safe travels now!” and I was sorry I had harbored unkind thoughts.

An hour from now I get to make the whole trip in reverse, on a day that here at my starting point is rainy and not sunny as it was when I set out yesterday. It will be picture seen from a window all over again, this time in sepia instead of Kodachrome. I can’t wait to find my seat and settle in.


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