Scraps of jagged iron and rusty tracks are hardly the make of mystery and magic, but when that railway stretches past the horizon of young eyes, it earns the same status as glitter and pixie dust.
It was hardly your ideal family and house residing in front of the train tracks, shaken daily by jangling cars headed to some unknown destiny. And as routine as the rising sun, some new argument had to sprout up, fed solely by boredom.
I was hard at work, lower lip sucked in, trying to pick the lock of my sister’s bedroom with a bobby pin like I’d seen in movies. In all that concentration it was easy enough to catch me by surprise. A shriek of anger and string of profanities knocked me from my knees to my rump, staring up in sudden terror at the temperamental teen.
I crawled quickly down the hall until I had the space to stand and keep running (which was more of a panicked stumbling) while she shouted after me.
“How about I go into your room and mess with your stuff, huh? How would you like that?”
I cringed, caught unexpectedly as she made a sharp right turn into my small room, listening to the sound of things clattering against my wall in hasty clusters.
Somewhat relieved that she didn’t make a grab for me, I slipped out into the garage just as the sound of some glass thing giving a fatal clink caught my ears. I watched a puff of my fogged breath in the crisp autumn air and rubbed my arms as I headed into the backyard. I hadn’t even gotten into her room! Why did she have to go and break my stuff? All I wanted was to let the cat out.
I made it to one of my not-so-secret hiding places under the widespread boughs of a shedding pine tree. Kneeling on the floor of frosted dirt, I shoved the lid off of my stash; for little over a year I had collected random litter from around the train tracks and kept them in a forgotten toy box. Everything was a monochrome of rust, but it shone like gold to my eyes; they were emblems of a possible escape.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I unconsciously knew the trains that rumbled by each day were heading to some pleasant place. Some television world of two story houses, yapping dogs, and amiable families. Or maybe to some city where one could get lost and find some oddly pleasant alley to live in. Possibly just a ride through some remote tropical forest full of ponds and fat blooming fruit.
I closed the lid to my stash after sifting through the sentimental rubbish and staining my hands a bright orange. Well I’ll show her! My sister will never be able to live with herself if I run away.
So the journey of escape and revenge ensued. I kicked a few pebbles and wondered where I would end up. Maybe I would even hop onto one of the tail carts if a train came by.
Even though it had never actually been said, I always felt walking along the train tracks alone was some taboo, and previously I only would if an older cousin agreed to take me, but they always turned back too quickly for my curiosity could be satisfied. But in that way, the tracks were still a wonderful mystery, and more than anything else in my young life, a beacon of hope. Some magical road that immortally existed whenever someone needed to escape - even if the trains never held passengers.
But after a long and chilly journey, I came to a fenced building with electronic gates. Scattered around the gravelly yard were handicapped train cars. I walked the entire perimeter, but the tracks came to their end at the desolate place, no matter which direction I frantically searched,
Here, the cargo was loaded and unloaded, the cars taken off, repaired, and replaced - a perfectly normal and understandable place, dusted in oil and rust. I wanted to cry, but the cold kept that at bay. My heart, in the strange and abstract way that children have, seemed to crack apart under the weight of the discovery. The trains and tracks were completely unremarkable, just as the looked. There was nothing special or enchanted to them, and they lead nowhere but to places like this. There was no hope to look to behind my house.
All anger I had previously felt slipped away under a new coat of defeat. Intently watching my untied shoes with each step, I shuffled slowly back home to pick up my messed room.
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