The Night Train

It purrs softly in the dark of the night.

“Hurry!,” A. shrieks as I press my foot on the clutch and shift into third gear.  We’re a half mile away from where the pavement curls up to meet the wooden and metal tracks that divide our town equally in half. The lead foot in me wants to beat it before it starts howling.

“Did you see Ryan and Marissa’s fight last night on the OC?” A. shouts over the screeching as I slam on the brakes.  We fail to hit the safety gate by inches.  I let out a slow exhale.

“I missed it,” I say.  “I was working on a paper for AP European History.” Why, again, did I take AP European History my senior year?

“Oh,” A. responds.  “You have to see it – Marissa just can’t understand Ryan’s past and forgive him for that comment he said in last week’s episode!  I just don’t get it.”

Truth be told – the OC has been a favorite of my group of friends for a while now.  Most weeks, we gather at one of our family’s houses to watch it together.  The show’s drama, the clashing personalities, the underage mistakes all feel eerily familiar somehow.

The train is billowing past us, at this point, as I look off to its smoke in the distance.

I can’t help, but wonder where it’s going.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

**

Seven minutes later, we find ourselves parked in front of A.’s boyfriend’s friend’s parent’s house.  A distant relation we sought out for a night of acting far beyond our age.  His parents are either away for the evening or highly ignoring the situation on the first floor of the home – details worth avoiding, for now.  My heel stabs a crinkled beer can as we exit my dad’s red candy apple sports car.

We step into the house softly as a wall of stale Natural Light and lingering cigarette smoke smacks us in the face.  I recognize about 5 of the 26 youth packed in  like sardines around the living room table.  Half empty cans, strewn about the family photos and fabric floral displays, decorate the room surrounding them.  One of the familiar faces wraps his arm around me.  “Hey, so glad you guys could make it!,” he whispers, far too energetically, into my ear.  Did he even know we were coming? I think. But, I take the compliment, anyways.

A. holes up in the corner with her boy as I realize I’m in for a long night.  A few failed attempts at meaningful conversation and finding a beer pong partner later, my mind starts drifting.  At home, stacks of college pamphlets wait for me on my bedroom floor. They’ve been there for weeks, but I hardly tend to notice.  I’ll look at them someday.

The reality is that I’m terrified to read them. I want so badly to stand still in this moment, and let the world circle around me.  I want to refuse to leave the familiar.  I want to refuse to let go of everything I’m holding on to in this hometown of mine.  Who can let go of episodes of the OC and random people’s houses?

One of the strangers stands up shakily.  “I think I might be sick,” he mutters as he slips out the back door.

**

I drop A. off at home and steer my dad’s car back to our home a few blocks away.  As I turn on to one of my hometown’s busy roads, I hear its whistle.  Another one purring in the distance, just a little more seductively.

I enter my parents’ front door and make sure to dead bolt it behind me.  A custom ritual never forgotten.  As I glide past the stack of college pamphlets near my bed, I grab a couple to look at in the morning.

When the next train comes to town, I want to be ready for the ride.

Got a moon and a billion stars
Sound of steel and old boxcars
The thought of you is driving me insane
Come on, baby, let’s go listen to the night train
~Jason Aldean

**

The Spartan Race and protein powder giveaway winner is entry #5.  Jordan – please look for an email from me!!

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