DELVING BETWEEN THE TOES OF LIFE....I AM TOEJAM


2003-09-26 - 5:38 p.m.

I donít know the people who live in my neighborhood. In the ten years I have lived here I have scarcely talked to anyone that lives near me. I do not know names and rarely do I recognize faces of people that live near me. But I know them. I know their habits, the sounds of their cars, I know their routines.

Yesterday I crawled in bed at 2:00 for a nap.

Fifty three trains go through here a day. My village is on the main route of the Grand Trunc Railway. The trains that go through here have become as familiar to me as the sounds of the people that live in this town. The sound of them, the feel of the vibration as a train pulls itself over our four intersections has become comforting to me. I donít notice them any more except when I am not here and twice an hour my ears cannot pick out the sound of a lonely whistle.

Right now I can hear fire engines, police cars, all of them with their sirens singing, there are drums behind that noise, the high school band and I know that two blocks over there is a group of teenagers, a large throng of kids, gathered with flowers in their hands and spread over the tracks.

Yesterday one of these kids that I hear daily as they walk by my house after school was hit by a train. It doesnít matter what the circumstances were, no one knows how it happened, how he ended up standing on the tracks while a train rolled into him. He was killed instantly. His friend fled. The engineer finally was able to pull the train to a halt, spreading the cars across our village for two hours.

Ironically I started an entry yesterday about how safe those trains make me feel. Fifty three a day and when they are rolling through no one can get in, or out, of the village. For those long suspended moments when a train goes through I feel safe, knowing no one can get to me. I feel quiet, pensive, happy and protected when the trains go through.

I heard the train grind to a stop. I was sleeping and what woke me was the unfamiliar sound of a train STOPPING. The loud blares the engineer had shouted to the kids standing on the track hadnít woken me, because I am used to those, those sounds are like my own heartbeat. What woke me was the stop, the sound of metal against metal abruptly halting instead of slowly fading away. And moments later I heard the sirens fly by.

I didnít go down there; I didnít run to the scene of the accident like others did. I didnít want to see it, I didnít even want to know what happened. For me it felt like a betrayal of sorts, those trains that make me feel so safe taking out a life in one moment. That kid not respecting something that is a part of every single personís life in this village. The cruelty of it all, how the sound of a trains whistle will haunt that kids friends and family forever and perhaps me too. Something that was once comforting to me is now sad.

I walked along the streets of my village today. Kids with flowers in hand were wandering around aimlessly. Too young to really know what it is they are feeling. That scared, desperate sadness that comes when someone close to you dies. They are feeling, perhaps for the first time, a taste of their own mortality. Their eyes seem wild, frightened, confused. They look at me with some sort of plea on their faces; they donít know how to deal with this yet.

At the intersection right now they are having a vigil. They have spread their flowers out, the fire trucks and police cars are screaming, wailing into our hearts, reminding us of the life that was lost. Reminding us that in a small village such as this, though we might now know one another by name, we know each other all the same.

I wonder which voice in the group will be missing after school as they all mill by my house. I wonder which house it is whose walls are filled with sorrow now, who will feel the rattle of every train that goes by deep within their bones and hearts.

The report is that he just stood there, frozen. No one knows why he stood there frozen, he took that secret with him as his life was thrust out of him by the impact of the train.

It is quiet now in my town, the sirens have subsided, the vigil is breaking up. But I know that those kids, that engineer, that kids family, will never forget what happened yesterday. That yesterday will live in their minds forever.

And I will miss the sound of his feet on my sidewalk, the sound of his voice, excited and hyper from being out of school for the day, as he passed my house with his friends and then ventured over the tracks to go home.

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