Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On the Platform

A freight train came by -- short but tall. Pacer Stacktrain containers up to the sky. I felt my eyes widen themselves at the approach of the roaring grey engines and I wondered at their low diesel vibrations that reached down into my ribs, shaking every one with a different timbre like my chest was a makeshift xylophone.

Then the river of containers came. "Intermodal transport" they call it. I remembered explaining it to my son, Mikey, as he played with his wooden train set, complete with loading crane, barge, semi-truck, and yes, Pacer Stacktrains about the size of dominos. I always explain things more exhaustively than he cares to hear. It's my tactic to prevent an endless succession of "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" Midway through the lecture on shipping yards and containers, he had told me to stop talking.

I stepped closer to the edge of the platform, gazing at the tops of the moving cars, embracing the faint possibility that one of those fitted containers may come tumbling from its lofty riding place, and take out not only me but a good chunk of the station in its exciting descent. Things always look smaller when they're moving.

If Mikey were there I would have had to "hold him from the loud noises." I chuckled at this, and swayed a little in my stance. The yellow bumps on the painted platform fit nicely into the tred of my shoes, and I steadied myself as the single stacks gave way to more doubles. The whoosh of hot air that accompanied them flecked my face with warm bits of debris. I held my breath and watched the end of the train whip by. No caboose or any other kind of "finale" car like in the heyday of the train. The starkness of the empty space over the tracks after a train's exit is always more surprising than its deafening approach.

Somehow all this made me think of was how Mikey's opportunities are as enormous as this train, and its straining, uninterrupted journey is his time on earth, and the hugeness of it all made for a good feeling.

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