The summer that I was 14, part of my family took a trip from California to Montana to see my uncle. Analyzing prices, both driving and flying were out. So price, combined with my then-three-year-old little brother's obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine, prompted us to travel by train. Trains, known as the most romantic way to travel, are a bit of a thing for my whole family. We don't collect models or artifacts or anything, although our driveway is full of antique railroad ties (and how 50 million 4 inch rusted spikes came 90 miles from the nearest railroad track to infest MY road, I'll NEVER know). But we wish on trains with more than 20 cars and love the lonesome sound of a train whistle.
Before I got on the train, I had my suspicions about the "romance" of the experience. Sure, I was excited in that surly, indifferent 14 year old way, but I my foremost thought was "Why do we have to be too poor to fly like normal people?" Sure, trains are cool. But what do they really have to to with love?
And then our train, due to arrive at midnight, was delayed two hours. Tired, grumpy, and carting around a manically sleepy three year old, my mom, sister, grandpa and I tried to bed down on benches specifically designed NOT to be comfortable. I guess Sacramento wants to discourage the homeless from hanging out in the train stations, so they put dividers between each seat. Newsflash: railings do not discourage people who wear grocery sacks for hats and earn a living off other people's recyclables, and they're a HUGE pain to anyone actually paying to sit in that station. Who do those demonic little armrests benefit? Did you have a contract with the bench-builder's union??
So two hour delay, no big deal. 2 AM. The loudspeaker: our train is delayed another hour.
They couldn't have just TOLD us we wouldn't board til 7:30 AM? Sent us to a hotel or at least let us go home? Oh no. They kept us hanging on, thinking what we were waiting for was JUST around the corner, until we were exhausted, depressed, bedraggled, and feeling sick from wayyyy too much vending machine chocolate.
And THAT'S what trains have to do with love, ladies and gentlemen.
I've been hearing a lot lately about "God's timing". Well, not that I don't put the utmost faith in his divine genius, but... WHAT is the HOLD UP? I'm twenty years old, for goodness sake. I'm single, and not by choice, either, let me tell you. Well, by choice, yes, but not MINE. And it's pretty disillusioning to wake up and realize that the PARTICULAR train I've been waiting on for the last four years is about as likely to pull into MY station as the polar ice caps are to decide to spontaneously re-freeze.
The thing about love is, you think you know how it's going to play out. You figure you know what train you're boarding, or at least what gate your leaving from. But it doesn't come and doesn't come... and unlike the train station, there's no garbled voice telling reassuring lies about arrival times. And all around you, other people boarding their trains. You can't help but panic. Is it me? Am I standing at the wrong platform? Did I get the wrong STATION? But in the end there's nowhere else to go so you just wait. Interminably.
You know what you definitely SHOULDN'T do? Get on a different train, just to be on a train. I tried enough wrong trains, that took me to NOWHERE I wanted to be, that I know of which I speak. Like the Joseph* Train which wound its merry track through the hills of Affection and sped into Co-Dependency Land. Fortunately the view was clear- seeing where this was headed, I jumped off. Next was the trip on the Casey Train- a short, round-trip excursion that left me right back at the station feeling like I'd never left at all. After that, ahhh.... the Nigel Train. In my own defense, I NEVER boarded that one. I was standing too close to the tracks and it HIT me. The longest of any of the rides, this lovely express train toured through the lovely countryside of Testing the Boundaries, followed by a long dark trip down the canyon of Dicking WIth My Head.
After which I ended up right back where I started from, still waiting for the one train I really wanted to catch, still not realizing it was just never coming.
And now I know.
But I'm still waiting.
In the train station at four AM, blasting my Dresden Dolls CD to block out the crying and bickering coming from my family two benches over, I wished I could be anywhere but there. On the train, back home, or in Montana already- anywhere safe and comfortable and dim. But when that train came at 7:30 AM, I had never been more glad to see a vehicle in my life. I adored that train trip, and the waiting was one of the most memorable parts. The thing we all know is that no matter how late the Cincinnati Express 112 or Prince Charming may be, we're not going to give up. We're going to stand our ground at that platform, board as few wrong trains as possible, and wait it out. Because it will either be worth it, or we'll die waiting.
Either way, it's inevitable. So stop whining and move over. I want to stretch out under these arm rests.
It's gonna be a long night.