Train Of Thought

When we stopped with a clunk he got on in New Liskeard,
He was tall, a bit plump and walked awkwardly up the aisle.
It could be he was a farm boy with his blond hair and freckled face.
His look was a bit out of sync as though someone else had dressed him.
He hid his eyes under a baseball cap with the Maple Leaf’s logo on it.

Travelling by rail seemed new to him as he gazed out the window.
The slow rocking of the iron horse soon sent him into slumber.
I wondered if he were off somewhere to school but that could not be.
It was the middle of February and the time frame did not fit.
All the kids had gone back to their studies long ago.

It could be he was headed to a hospital in Toronto at the end of the line.
The train had become a sort of cancer shuttle over the past decade.
People went from the north with deadly diagnosis on their minds.
Sometimes they returned but often they got lost in the cancer machine.
Much of the time they came back in a box.

He looked too healthy to be sick and there was no sign of worry on his face.
Here he was in the seat across the aisle bobbing gently with the rhythm of the train.
I watched the miles blur by him in his window and now and then he would stir.
The snow covered farm fields gave way to white clad forests and rock.
Whistle stop northern towns paused us and people came and went.

By the time the conductor had announced “Union Station 10 minutes”,
The farm boy was awake and staring intently out the window.
Trees and fields had given way to grey and brown brick and mortar.
Lives in all types of purposeful situations were displayed in our windows.
We could see them coming and going and it made me wonder who they were?

The city opened up to swallow us in great walls of concrete and structure.
More than 200 years of digging, forming, constructing and expanding welcomed us.
I knew what I was coming back to and I felt an uneasiness yet excitement.
The farm boy seemed frozen in his seat and fear spread across his face.
His eyes were wide and his mouth agape as he sensed his impending arrival.

Strangely I felt some kin to this teenager headed into the frenzy of big city life.
He shared the same pine tree, fresh water, frozen snow experience.
I wished I could have offered up more than “Well here we are” on our arrival.
The last time I saw him he was walking down the busy hall into Union Station.
He simply disappeared in the crowd that flowed further into the belly of the city.

I stopped at a coffee shop in the station to pause and reflect.
There was no mystery here at the gates of the city in the middle of winter.
On one hand here I could be myself and fit right into a vibrant and colourful patchwork.
On the other I felt uprooted, detached and in limbo.
The city hung before me in a slippery slope that offered relief but at a cost.

I thought of home and my street, the house and my neighbours.
Granny would be waiting by the phone to hear of my safe arrival.
Mom was busy at work but I knew she was thinking about me.
Barry and Linda and the kids were busy putting their day together.
Alana and Emma had opened up the store by now up the street.

A tremble went through me and I fought the urge to turn back.
I knew another rail car waited for me ready to take me back to Iroquois Falls.
Still, I realized that somehow I had to leave behind everyone and everything I loved.
A life lived in vulnerability, fear and intolerance had taken its toll on me.
The gay life in the big city held the promise of a rainbow…after the rain.

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