In the backseat of a rental car near the outskirts El Paso Texas, I waited at a railroad crossing and watched a freight train move slowly along the tracks. I was young enough to still be curious, but old enough lose interest in the line of ongoing freight cars.
I remember the air was dry. We were surrounded by the desert.
We were surrounded by sand and cactus. Overhead, long black winged buzzards hovered motionless in the sky. The sun was so hot it left thirsty mirages waving from the ground. We were not far from the border, which across; people in the city of Juarez Mexico awaited the money from seas of English-speaking tourists.
I watched the freight train move passed. It seemed endless to me.
I wondered about the engineer. I wondered how he felt sitting behind the controls and steaming along at such a slow pace.
I wondered what he did to occupy his mind, or keep himself sane, in an otherwise small box.
I envisioned the engineer’s dashboard was complete with different gauges, handles, levers, and of course, I pictured a pull cord above his right shoulder for the train’s whistle.
I assumed the engineer was not alone. I pictured two, or maybe three others sitting in the back of the locomotive, drinking whiskey, or smoking cigarettes. I figured they split the long trip into different shifts.
I was young enough at the time to be enthusiastic over something like this. I was young enough to want to count the different freights that rolled passed, but then again, I was old enough to lose patience. And quickly enough, the idea of counting railroad cars was eventually replaced with the impatience of a pre-teen kid.
Freight trains move across our country all the time….
They crawl at slow speeds and move through the different states. They pass through different climates and landscapes. The trains pass through different versions of people with different accents, different beliefs, and opinions.
Somewhere hidden inside one of those cars was possibly a man buried in a bottle of cheap wine, wearing a dirty gray suit, with a white opened collar, and seeing the parts of this country, which I have only read about.
His whiskered face might be slightly tanned from the sun that graced the open freight car, and his beard, perhaps, is yellowish-white.
I envisioned him as a piece of emotion; he was part of the heart inside that mass of machinery.
His was the dream end
Although it moved slowly, I wondered how long it took a train like that to stop at its station.
I suppose after traveling so many miles, at any speed; stopping isn’t an easy thing.
I assumed the engineers made adjustments, and each car linked behind them needed to communicate as if it were one body.
I assumed the weight behind them was too heavy to stop on command.
I can relate to that.
I saw the engineers as the vital brain to this body of steel.
I am very much a part of this metaphor………
I am the engineer as well as the whiskered man
I am the mass; I am the body that moves, carrying myself from one destination to another, and regardless to my speed, stopping is not always an easy thing