Friday, November 25, 2005

Train Ride, Sunshine and the First Snow of 2005

Pennsylvania station is such a cozy and warm place on a Thanksgiving day for a stranger and loner like me. It gave a purpose to my existence that day. I was a traveler, that will overwrite every other title I held on this day: compulsive, obsessive woman, alone, overworked, heart-acher.

I blended right in. With my suitcase and eagerness in front of the express ticket machines, I was like everyone else, eager to be home or to the family for the turkey lunch or dinner, for a day to relax and be the spoiled daughter of someone.

I was not going home, I was leaving the city, evacuating like a piece of wreckage, on this day, I was grateful that I got a place to go where I don't have to be my true self. That is why I am not going to any of my close friend's place either. They would read into me too much. On this day, I just want to be someone else and be thankful for that. I want to be among semi strangers and smiled and felt like a distant friend who has no obligations emotionally to anyone.

Acela express train was so quiet, it wound through the tunnel and took me so calmly and peacefully away from this city that I loved. In 3 minutes I was on the other side of the river, leaving New York, heading north.

I was out of town for a day and a night only, to escape from the too romantic and happy city, to hide in the suburb, to avoid the possibility of missing you too bad and not hearing from you, to know that I can not help to relieve your pain and it is better that I stay away.

The train paralleled I 95, the highway I used to drive along so much when I had a car and a different life. But those memories were of no interest anymore, causing me no sentiments. It belonged to a past that seemed so far away.

I put on my I Pod, I was listening to my favorite Chinese album and let the train take me through the woods and neighborhoods of New England. I felt like the boy in Ice Storm, only I was not going home. I always imagined what would be like if I had grown up here, in these houses in the wood, looking Asian, yet feeling like a blonde, like one of your friend. I imagine that if it was like that, would it be easier for us, for me, to read you better.

I fell into a sleep. I was tired, tired from work, tired of the holiday, tired of your silence.

A voice from the speaker woke me up: The trains is arriving at New Heaven, Connecticut. I opened my eyes. On the tracks leading to the station, I had my first glimpse of snow, of this year. Those scattered and shy first snow, on the ground, not enough to cover everything, but just enough to tell you it snowed. It has that chilly and familiar feeling of the snow of New England. It matched so well with the barren woods with some reminiscent of colored leaves, a bright blue and cloudless sky. It felt cold, it felt right. It felt right for a trip that meant to just take me away and forget.

The train would take two more stops before my destination, Stamford and Providence, Rhode Island.

After Stamford, I got up to the cafe car. Acela's cafe car has such huge windows that make you feel like you are watching a movie. The speed helped. Trees and houses and abandoned tracks as well as boats in the sea ports just flew toward you. I sat in front of the window and watched for a long time, taking in the sceneries, the soundless motion of objects outside the window, your smile as a little boy growing up in these trees, little houses, knowing them in your heart, memories of good and bad, sweet and bitter, which I knew only a little, maybe forever a little.

This is not my home, this is yours, and it feels like it means something to me now. Because I traveled so far to reach here, to be here, traveling like I have grown up here, with you.

New England is always closer to me. We read much about it in American history books back in China. It has this similar weather and the feel of a northeastern coastal area like my home province in north east China. My first touch and feel of the life in this country was Rochester at Up State and Boston. And then I met a man that I love who is from here.

I remember the word Aiya, that you told me means Yes to Bostonians. It means something else in Chinese. It means startle of a suprise or a deep sigh depending on how you say it. But we kissed after we said it in our own respective tones the other day. I thought of that when the train was speeding toward Boston and I smiled to myself.

Yet for a moment, I felt displaced and amazed. I wondered what made me a lone traveler on this train, at this time, wearing the hat that you liked, feeling so comfortable and calm. My memories of trains were crowded, boring and desperate, when I was little, traveling to my father's rural home town in China. Or when I traveled home for spring festival, during college, leaving the college campus and Beijing, leaving the new love, heartbroken in a way the departure from the first love will break your heart. I did not like those train ride. But I liked this one.

It was taking me away from you, and it took me to where you were. Those calm or pretend to be clam and nice neighborhoods. I imagined your journey through here to New York. How different would those be compared to the ones I had leaving my hometown to go to Beijing and now here and all the people we have met and left and about to leave.

My I Pod was playing itself, John Lennon was on. All you need is love. Was that true? When we were watching the documentary to commemorate his assassination, when were so near but also so far from each other, why is it so difficult? All we need is love, isn't it?

I stood in line for a bottle of water. My eyes met that of a strikingly handsome young man's, standing a person ahead of me. He smiled this great warm smile. I smiled back, a little sad one. The older guy standing right between us caught that exchange and looked at both of us with a disapproving stare. I hope he remembered when he was young and alone, riding a train, smiling at some young woman or girl who might look a little sad. I do hope that. So I smiled at him.

I felt calm and hoped everyone was happy on a holiday, or at least feel warm.

When the train arrived in Providence, I was back on my seat. I looked at the church that was
beside the station. I knew nothing about this town except its connection with you. Now it caused some curiosity in me. I looked around, trying to tell what kind of town it is.

The book you lent me lying on my lap, I did not open it yet. Little Children. It was about people living in neighborhood like these. The first chapter saddens me, those suburban mothers. We shared books, hoping that by reading what other one read, we know them better. Or we just want to share things in the world that made us happy and excited with those we love.

So I took this book with me on this trip. I will read it in the bed at night, after Turkey and Sweet Potato and harmless chat over redwine, in the ultimate quietness of a true New England suburb, where a Big New York Love is so far away that I will doubt its existence and its capability to hurt me, in the same quietness you grew up with, listening to your parent's whispers at night.


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