I was riding on the train – the story of my life, yes – and happened to be looking out the window and listening to music (at the time, it was Song from the Grave, Doyle Brahmhall II) while we drove through some of the Southside’s extensive railyards. The train I take goes slowly to and fro the city. It stops in Beverly every literal 2 blocks, slowing to stutter and gather precious cargo, and cars on the parallel expressway fly by while we inch through debris of track pieces covered in snow and past stagnant machines inside barbed wire fences.
We go so slow that I sometimes imagine running beside the train and keeping up or hopping on and holding the handles outside the doors, like my Uncles used to do when they lived in this very same Beverly neighborhood that we chug through. I wonder if I could hold on with my knit gloves, or if they’d slip and the fall would hurt. Then I typically decide that I’ll wait until it’s warmer to try it out.
It’s not often that I’m leisurely looking out the window, either. Often enough, I suppose, to recognize the stops by a fleeting glance at their platforms. A look breifly bolsters my confidence that my stop hasn’t passed while I was whisper-talking on the phone or…yes…napping. But most of the time, it’s true, I bring something to do. If I traveled into the city without a bag or twelve pockets, I’d feel naked. The whole baggage issue is obnoxious, but necessary. One thing it does, though, is keep my eyes from the glazed-over stare that comes when you watch the world rush – ‘scuse me – scoot by out the emergency window.
I finished my book, so I’m giving my eyes a rest from racing through speed-read pages. I’m keeping mostly to myself, even though I know I’m gonna get an earful about being anti-social from the conductor who always looks for me on the train. I’ve got my music on shuffle because, frankly, I couldn’t decide what to listen to tonight. And, at the crux of it all, I’m looking out the window, about to be akin to the glazed-over kind.
The railyard looks the same as it does when I glance and know my stop is in four more. The flatbed trains are linked together on a neighboring track and covered in snow. There’s spray graffiti on one of them, in familiar but still unreadable gang font. It looks like a name in blue on a yellow-orange car. Underneath what I think is a capital “R”, there’s factory ink on the train. It’s a warning about the use of such a car and says, “controlled interchange”. I don’t know what controlled interchange means, but for four stops I wondered what it might. Josh Rouse’s “Sunshine” came on (I’ll have you know that song is entirely my jam!) and it’s about change. I’ve listened to it so often through changing times, that it has become simultaneously about my change, too. Before I could take interchange to synonymity with life’s transitions and changes and figure out how it is or isn’t controlled by who (or Who) or what, we were at Midlothian. That’s where I get off.
So here I am, stuck at a controlled interchange, in the snow.