It is early morning as I wait to board VIA number 40, an Ottawa bound train. I’m traveling home to see my mother for what I know will be the last time. There are nurses 24 hours a day now, pain meds and sedation through a Pic line. Then there’s Dad, sitting helpless beside her as she lays motionless in the bed they shared for 52 years. All that’s left is for me to get home.
The loudspeaker cracks with an update. One that dryly intones train number 40 to Ottawa, will be delayed until further notice.
Fuck. Not today.
Sitting down preparing to wait, I watch the rail officer sigh as he leaves his post at the gate, listening to the voice barking through his PDA. He is youngish, nothing remarkable about him, really. He is, I think, plain, though pleasant looking. Something tells me he has come far since high school; where school dances were a chore, trouble finding dates common.
So it is to this stranger, one who I will likely not see again, I bring a bulky, extended burden of human anxiety; a haphazard baggage from an unknown and, at this moment, weary man. A trade of my situational hell for questions with no assurance of answers. Does he have a wife, maybe he lives with another man, or perhaps still shares the family home with parents?
I wonder what he watches on TV, how much is in his savings, did he change his underwear today, or this week? Does have a big dick and fuck with abandon, or has self consciousness and shame relegated him to solitary relief in a public stall?
I think about this man, considering if he is kind, does he laugh without restraint, or would he kick his dog in lieu of a reassuring stroke? Is he loved by another? Who was the one he lost? And what has he given up?
These are the things I wonder as train number 40 approaches, light flickering tentatively in the pre dawn of a new day. The man’s hand rises to a sandy, tousled head, absentmindedly smoothing out a right parted wave.
And right there, in that reflexive gesture of unconscious primping, I see the man, his essence bare, revealed. His independence, crafted over time, and through a complex navigation, is for a moment too clear, and I look away.
I look away, because in that plain, though pleasant face, there exists a beautiful velocity; one not lost in appropriated deportment. Through random gestures of smoothing hair, he is a blueprint to self possession.
He takes my ticket before a shared meeting of eyes.
A mutual awareness; reciprocity.
One that, for a moment it seems, offers a glimpse of what is soul. And just as quickly, it’s gone. With a polite nod, the view becomes random, a memory, the nexus of which has passed.
“Have a good day, sir.”
I return the sentiment, appearing oblivious to the trajectory of moments before. Walking east on platform 17, I reach the car of my Ottawa bound train.
A good day?
I ponder that question, realizing that today my metric for good is, by necessity, low. Good will simply be making it home in time.