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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

Night Train

It's a long way from Glendale, a section of New York

City where single family homes line leafy streets, a

place hemmed in by murderous Bed-Stuy and a town-sized

greensward formed out of cemeteries. Harry Houdini

is buried in one of them, a bunch of Mafiosi in most.

Summer nights, with the bedroom windows open,

one could hear the subway trains coming out of the

souterrain and onto the elevated tracks to cross parts

of Queens and Brooklyn, then bury themselves again

to dive below the East River to Manhattan.

It was exciting, at bedtime, to hear the sounds of trains on

their way to the center of my universe, the place of

art and drama and music, and fine stores with

tea rooms where Gram would take me. Gram enjoyed

lovely things, cultured times, and red nail polish, all

other shades being de trop.

It's a long way. Sitting in my greenhouse/conservatory

on a ridge above the Tamar Valley, reading a book

that puts paid to all the mindless crap the Roman church

has fed the world for two millennia, knowing there was

a reason I fed my soul and avoided the demands of's a long way. But very close.

Still nights, with the curtains hanging straight and limp,

bedclothes sticking, turning over and over and over, but

still loving the sound of those train wheels squealing on

their ascent to tracks running above the boulevards,

sometimes, in front of the windows of upstairs

flats where poorer people lived.

I loved those sounds. They took my young self

away from the semi-suburban closeness of narrow homes,

tiny gardens and nosy neighbors. For a few minutes.

Every night. I pitched my soul toward those trains,

my yearning toward things I hadn't even dreamt of yet.

It's a long way, and yet, I would go back. I might go back.

I spent most of the night awake, eight years ago,

in a hotel on Manhattan's West 57th Street, listening to

the city. I was so happy, awake by choice. In

the morning, I bought lilacs. You can't buy cut lilacs

any place else, I think. And then I drove home to a suburb

four hours away, and was sad.

I'm not sad here, mostly, above the Tamar. But only, I think,

because I am old now, and the sounds in my head

and the scents in my nostrils have intensified as the urge

to create new worlds has diminished. They almost satisfy me,

the memories. No need for trains and boats and planes, although

I'm not done yet. But now, as not before, it needs to be

comfortable...worth it. I've a lifetime of stored

memories, satisfying ones, ones unique to place and time and

observer. Not able to be recreated. Not able to be replaced.

Not able to be surpassed?

I don't know. I know that it's quieter now, my soul,

although it still jousts a bit in righteous anger

over the harm we do each other. I wish it did more dancing,

more flinging itself into a joyous universe happy for it to

be. Just be.

I need, now, to make something of the trains in Queens,

the lilacs in Manhattan, the lemon ice cream sodas with Gram

at the tea room, the life of a child who grew and flew,

landed, flew again, always moving, always seeking,

usually finding.

But now, ahh, to float upon it, this life, and

use it for my own purposes until it ends,

whenever that might be.

That morbid thought makes the past

more precious, the present unsettled,

and the future.......

I only know that I do not know. Unsettling,

but bearable as long as I can hear the night

trains in my soul.

Copyright 2015 Laura Harrison McBride

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