I was never trying to make any statement, I only forgot to take a shower. I’ve been waiting for so many slow trains and snowstorms, I have no time for hygiene beyond the bottle of mock-perfume air-freshener in the glove box.
Watching as the cars go past slow enough to read their weight limitations and capacity specifications stamp on their steel skin.
I’m cranky from all the chewing gum. I just swabbed down my whole body an hour ago. It took seventeen wet-naps to get me all clean. But the stench is already creeping.
Through the plastic lemon scent and the ammonia that tries to push my itchy eyes out of my head, I can already smell death; the crusty fumes of a man rotting from the inside out.
I know if this train were to ever end, there’s a truck stop up the way where you can shower in privacy. It’s a buck and a quarter for ten minutes. But as far as I can see, an endless procession of train cars, tiny dots on the horizon that gradually grow along the line.
They before me, groaning, smoking and old. I wait and rot. They’re adding new cars on at the front end. The shiny, silver boxes will be rusted and squeaking by the time they pass in front of me. Rotten dilapidated bits of metal that crumble apart, they’ll need to be amputated from the back of the train on the other end, before slipping over the horizon to die.
I’ve spent the better part of my life this way; sitting, waiting, helpless. I’ve felt heavenly inspirations dissipate and dwindle for the god-damned trains. The moment you know you must move. You hear opportunity knocking in your heart, or has it come and gone again?
Mostly I am resigned to the fact that nothing is possible with the grating hypnotic screech of metal on metal. The gate light and bell alternating left side to right, blinking a regular rhythm at me.
I know the only movement I can make is to climb up into a train care. Like they say, if you can’t beat them, lie down and let them sweep you away. I’ve vowed to never step foot on one, not as long a dim awareness still glows inside my hollowed out, vacuum chamber head. I know where the trains end up, I would rather sit and pensively rot, waiting for the moment which will never come.,
I’m trapped, I know. The only escape is to leave my known life behind, abandoning every memory I have and places I’ve been and with whom; giving up every hope and dream I’ve managed to hang on to; up the corrugated metal and steps, to take me where ever the train is going.
There’s nothing else, no option, besides sit and wait and eventually rot away to dust. But I have seen which way those crippled metal boxes go, where they wind up, and I won’t dare to make a move.
© Robert Emmett McWhorter (circa 1995)