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Zen and the Art of Missing your Train

This doesn’t happen very often…Andra is out before me. Usually, she struggles to get to sleep, reading or writing late into the night. If there is one thing I am good at, it is falling asleep. If I am prone to do it, I can be in Dreamland before you can finish reading th

It seems to be a recurring theme, the leaving. Always running through waystations. All these grand halls sound the same, the staccato of heels echoing off impenetrable surfaces, the cacophonous murmer of unintelligible conversations. Is it that everyone is speaking in foreign tongues? The layering of voices overlap and interweave, the faceless sources unrecognizable yet familiar, like deja vu mind games. 

Moving through these scenes feels like a riding a mobius strip, a perpetual conveyor belt that threads through a labyrinth of concourses and atria. Up escalator becomes moving sidewalk becomes elevator then down escalator. Its like the space is folding upon itself, enveloping me in an origami of reflective terrazzo and glass.

Being caught in this prism multiplies everything I see and hear, making it all very disorienting. Is that my reflection? I look like I am a child again. Trick of the eye, I guess.

The only voices that I seem to understand are always announcing gates, arrivals, departures. And they are paging me. Have I missed my connection? What time is it? Where am I supposed to be? I’ve gotta hurry! It’d be much easier if I wasn’t going the opposite direction of everyone else.  M u s t   m o v e   f a s t e r .

MTM to Platform 4, MTM to Platform 4. Departure in two minutes”

Panic usually tastes of metal, like the fillings in my teeth, but in this place there is no such sensation. Only the echoing, the prisms, the kinetic frenzy. I keep catching my reflection out of the corner of my eye, but when I  turn to look I’m not there. I go around a corner and everyone is gone. It’s quiet. Another corner and suddenly I am back in the stream, but now everyone is going my way. The passage is narrowing and time is short as I try to fight my way to the front. Ahead is Platform 4; I can see it. The announcements continue but I’m not listening, focused on the glass door at the end of the passage.

“Last Call for Platform 4”

Just one more person to get ahead of, a little boy. I squeeze by just as I reach the door. I catch my reflection in the glass as I pass through it; where is the little boy?

The door slams shut. One seat is open. As the vessel lurches forward I slide in next to the girl by the window. “Hello” I say. “Hi” she says. It was a nice moment.

28 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love train stations, they are so frenetic, yet have a sereneness of pattern that one would swear was orchestrated. Everyone has a certain rhythm as they know exactly how to get their paper, magazine, coffee and still get to their platform on time, I always enjoy seeing a train station scene where the movie director invariably shows us a wide angle slow speed shot followed by a fast paced shot where everyone looks like marionettes on speed.

    When we were in England a couple of years ago, we took the train from Birmingham to London and then transferred to the locals for getting around to all the tourist spots we wanted to see. It was truly an amazing place, so busy, so purposeful; we must have stood out as real rubes as we scanned all the various schedules and electronic boards trying to figure it all out.

    One day we want to do a cross country train trip in the U.S. and Canada, hang out in the dining car and enjoy not only the country side, but, watch all the different people come and go. Can’t think of a better place to people watch,….maybe we’ll find that little boy you lost.

    September 24, 2011
    • I love train stations. Not the one here in Chuck, but the old ones that echo and pulsate with life. People hurrying. I’m determined to live someplace where I can spend more time on trains someday.

      September 24, 2011
  2. Excellent capturing of the cacophony of the mind. The struggle and the doubt, the doubt of self and of destination. Our mind can be like t,he most cavernous marble hall with ideas and reasons and doubts all dan ing about and echoing and ricocheting back at us. The feeling can be excitingly frightening – and then we find the niche where we belong. Congratulations.

    September 24, 2011
  3. The confusion invoked by dreams and their shifting strata, realities and the uncertainties is beautifully spelled out here.

    You know the moments just after waking from a particularly vivid dream…how you try again to grasp that evanescent moment of insight? This piece clearly “gets” that. Yet there it goes, like smoke, trailing from the nostrils of a stranger.

    If this a joint work or is this MTM alone? Hard to tell as the writing shares fingerprints of both Andra and MTM.

    September 24, 2011
    • Cheryl, I answered you below. I love how he wove the train station and the Platform 4 into this story. I’ve lived with that train station scene from the book for so long now. It was one of the first ones I wrote, and the one I kept fighting to put back.

      I wish I dreamed. I mean, I am sure I do, but I never remember them. This week has been one long sleepless creative jag, and I’m exhausted. I feel like I broke down some walls in terms of what I can do with words and what people will accept from me, though. Thank you for encouraging me and for tagging along and for all the things you do away from the blog to be my friend.

      September 24, 2011
      • Thank you for your kind words. Sometimes, I believe that my best use in this world is as a cheerleader for creative people. Sometimes it’s easier to see other’s paths than it is my own.

        I enjoy knowing you so much. Your candor, your creativity and your insight as well as your sense of humor make my life much more enjoyable.

        Your friendship is a treasure.

        September 25, 2011
      • Well, I love reading your poetry. The poem you wrote while reading my book has served to revolutionize my query letter. Thank you.

        September 25, 2011
      • Delighted to be of use! And after we chatted about it, and then saw your note via FB last week, I could see that it would be the right opening–intriguing and pulling someone into the [What?] necessary to keep them going into the heart of it all.

        September 25, 2011
  4. This is an excellent piece of writing! Very nice indeed. The only train station I have ever been to, that I can remember, would be the Amtrak station here in Charleston. I have probably spent way more time in airports than train stations. I think that Lou has an excellent idea with regards to traveling the U.S. via train. I wonder if I would feel claustrophobic after a while? If we were to win the lottery (probably should play in order to do that huh) we would buy a nice RV and travel the U.S. in that. I think that would be fun.

    September 24, 2011
    • My favorite train stations (so far – I haven’t seen many, either) are Grand Central in NY and St. Pancras in London.

      I share your fear about a long trip on a train. I’m afraid I would feel claustrophobic or bored. We did a two-night train trip on our honeymoon, and the first night was one of the worst nights of my life. We were in the cattle car because no sleepers were available. The second night, we had a sleeper, and it was better. But, it was a tiny space, and the scenery was a lot of the same, and the train only stopped once. Your RV idea might give you more freedom. You should read Roxanne (The Good Luck Duck). She writes a blog about her RV experiences with her partner.

      September 24, 2011
  5. Amber Deutsch #


    September 24, 2011
    • It’s haunted me all day. Maybe it will spur a good dream for me.

      September 24, 2011
  6. I hear you…

    September 24, 2011
  7. Since MTM did not leave his signature behind at 2:30 this morning, I want everyone to be clear. He wrote this piece all by himself. I had one of those headaches yesterday, and still had to give a presentation in Myrtle Beach. Our hosts entertained us with dinner and the Carolina Opry, and it was almost midnight by the time I sat down through the haze of the day to try to write a post. It was the capstone post of the week, and it stunk. I couldn’t make anything fire correctly in my brain to make it come together. My poor, aching head finally gave out on me.

    MTM has been asking me all week to try a dream sequence piece, but I don’t dream much in real life. It was hard for me to get my mind around how to write one, and the concept wasn’t speaking to me. He decided to do it to show me what he meant and to give me a writing lesson. I’m glad he did. Cheryl, it does contain elements of the train station scene from my book, something that makes it feel me-like without being mine.

    I’m glad you made your train, MTM, when it came to meeting me. I love you.

    September 24, 2011
    • I hope you are feeling much better this morning. MTM did a fine job of channeling you and merging with him…but then we know that is the signature of your union…a fine merger to two truly talented individuals.

      September 24, 2011
      • Well said, Cheryl.

        MTM is quite a gem. And I’m sorry about that stinking headache. I can’t imagine. 😦

        September 24, 2011
  8. Another evidence of the fulfillment of your destiny, Andra?

    I’ve never met MTM, but from your writings and the comments of those who do know him, I marvel at your good fortune; and, at his ability to step into your shoes and deftly move your story forward. I seldom dream, but I have traveled by train and recognize the “kinetic frenzy” he described. I could see his dream clearly. Great job!

    September 24, 2011
    • MTM makes my writing better. He is so patient and supportive. He listens to me talk about ideas and tells me what doesn’t work in a lot of my posts. I know he’s been tried to the edge of his unending patience this week. He is a gifted, thoughtful, amazing man. You are right. I am fortunate.

      September 24, 2011
  9. Lou Mello #

    Excellent wordsmithing by the Ninja Shadow!

    September 24, 2011
  10. Excellent post MTM!

    September 24, 2011
  11. Wonderful writing, Andra. I am a railway station fiend. I could stand there for hours but because of my frenetic nature I am usually flying through them, firing questions at guards and getting on trains which are not always the right ones. Your writing has the same sound quality as some of the scenes from Citizen Kane: the words echo, somehow.

    September 24, 2011
    • This one is by my husband, MTM. It is fitting that he wrote one for this series. That may make more sense Sunday.

      I share your love of train stations, Kate.

      September 24, 2011
  12. I love your ability to get into various characters heads so clearly. I think the theatre in us makes it easier to write in first person, which makes for a struggle when it comes to trying to write something longer than a blog post.

    April 4, 2012
    • MTM actually wrote this one, but I agree about the theatre thing. I told my pre-editor a couple of months ago – when she was saying not to get offended at some of the things she said about my writing – to imagine having to act something out in front of a room full of people and have someone dump on it in front of everybody. I’ve had directors get in my face and scream to get the ‘right’ reaction out of me. Compared to stuff like that, writing is a breeze.

      April 4, 2012

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