Night 4 (The Train)

Laurel Snyder

What were we doing on that train, as it rolled over and through and past everything in the huge darkness?

It was so open, our train. It was a roller coaster car with four shaky tin walls and a steel bar for ordering everything. We sat close, our arms carefully stacked, our hands in other hands. We arranged ourselves, turned our faces forward, touched our shoulders barely to each other. We sat straight and then forgot almost everything else.

The track rose and fell softly, thinly over a world of hill upon hill. There were no rivers or mountains or cities in our path, though we could periodic flashes of distant light coming from over other hills as we sped past them through the cool darkness. The train just went and went, softly, silently, constantly on. And there was always your shoulder and the bar on my knees, and then only the night.

Nothing was in our way. What the train met, the train passed through. Everything in the world had two doors big enough. Every obstacle became a tunnel, every shape became an opening. There would be moments of change and then the sameness of night and shoulder again.

We passed calmly through a house-tunnel, caught a moment of dinner, a hand reaching for a bowl of beans, a father saying, “…her on the team if she…” and a boy squirming in a chair. We felt a moment around us and then there was a hill.

We passed serenely through a church-tunnel, found high walls and our necks craning to a ceiling of star and pillar, gold and dome, candle and echo. If the train never stopped, neither did it speed. Hills and hills and always night like a bubble around us. Then we were there.

When the bar rose from our knees, we stepped out into an empty room. So the train passed us, kept sliding neatly on its way. We watched it become a train in the distance, stood in our empty room and held each other nervously. I wrapped my hair around us like a blanket. It had grown very long and I was proud.