Ghost Train

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.”

There are always ghosts at this time of year.  Memories of experiences tucked away in a dusty box, seemingly secure until something invisible opens the box.  Memories not yet made, feelings of anxiety and hope about what might fill the box.

I had the idea for the ghost part of the post before today.  I couldn’t think about what I might post in response to this prompt.  But then somehow it hit me.  I would do my own version of the Christmas Carol, or at least a very rough draft. It would take place on a train, so there’s my tenuous connection to the prompt.

Marley is a woman in this tale..  Marley violently shakes the woman awake.  She must get up and get on the train.  Her life depends on it.

She gets on the train.  It is dark.  Waiting.  The train starts to move.  She feels sleepy and groggy..  There is a figure sitting next to me. She is Ghost of the Past. She is hard to see at times.  The ghost  seems to be made of air, weightless.  The woman with the ghost feels as though she is wearing a gown of lead.  Dread fills her heart.  She wants to run but she can’t.

As she starts to awaken,she  travel through a valley of fuzzy memories.  Has she  seen these things in pictures?  She sees a girl with a smile on her face riding a bike down a tree-lined street, things seem to feel more real and she feel warms inside.  Yet she know this journey will not stay that way.  The girl seems happy for a while.  She has vague memories of her first few years of school and the brick house she lived in.  In her mind her backyard seems endless, but seeing it from the train window it seems much much smaller.  Does the Ghost have the right house?  A parade of beer cans in and out of the house.  The beer cans mean something to the little girl, she isn’t sure what though.  she sees the beer cans, cheap brands of beer.  Of course she know the little girl will learn the painful lessons of what they mean.  Always a current of anger.  Arguments that come out of nowhere.  Her dad likes beer, but is seems to suck the joy out of him.

She sees her sister on the train ride. She and her sister are playing, running.  Barbie dolls. Things seem so much simpler and more joyful as she watches the little girls playing.  Where did that joy go?   Eventually beer or one of his cousins will start sucking the joy out of her sister as well.  But right now the girls are innocent of what the stinky parade of beer cans means.

We speed up.  A new place and a new school.  Things seem more complicated.  She don’t know the answers to all the questions.  Hours of church.  My Catholic school uniform. Walking home with a boy that seems different, but she isn’t sure what makes him different. A playground, where she sometimes feel like an outsider.  High school.  Another uniform.  Walking home from school.  Rude comments from car windows.  Male attention, but not the sort she wants.  Talking with friends in the cafeteria. The biology teacher that she liked.  A boy passes away.  Why?  Does his family know the answer?  Lots of drinking amongst her classmates, but for the most part the girl manages to steer clear.

The girl has her first kiss(and her second and third…) with boy in a basement after she has had a few beers.  The girl has never met the boy before that night.  He goes to a different school.  The girl thinks the boy must not know how undesirable the boys at her high school think she is, otherwise they would never kiss her.  She remember the half drunk eyes almost closed sort of dreamy look the boy has as he leans in to kiss her.  She remembers his beautiful brown eyes and the scar by his lip.  And of course she remembers the taste of beer soaked kisses.

High school graduation.  Going to college.  Drinking.  Meeting new people.  Heartbreak.  Remembering crossing a bridge over a river frequently on my walks home from the library.  The cold dark river.  Disturbing thoughts coming out of nowhere.  The train seems to slow down as we cross the river.  Why?  Why can’t it speed up again.

Going back to school.  Working.  Meeting her  husband.  Lazy days together in bed in a white room with a big window.  A white satin dress and a tuxedo.  Flowers.  People. Cake.  Marriage.  More lazy days together.  The couple enjoys the lazy days, but wishes for something else.  A baby.  The baby finally comes.  It is a girl.   She holds her daughter  for the first time.

Good times and bad times.  The girl and her husband have a few fights.  She never knows how to say what she means in a way that doesn’t get tangled up with emotion and old hurts from the past.  She tries to get better at it though.

The girl doesn’t feel right.  She has vague stirrings in her mind that don’t add up.  But then these vague stirrings  in her mind and her belly do add up after all.  She is pregnant.  She can’t believe it.  A boy.

The girl and her husband navigate through life with their very own girl and boy.  School.  Her daughter starts kindergarten.  The train speeds up and all of a sudden .

The train stops at cemeteries.  The gravestones don’t seem real.  Pain. Cold.  A hardened heart.

She dozes off.  Her daughter is now seventeen.  She says no to the ghost.  She  wants to see more of her kids.  The train screeches to a halt.

She meets another Ghost.  She takes another train ride.  She doesn’t quite understand this time, as the ghost navigates the present.  She is supposed to find an answer.  She is supposed to do something.  She must do something and she must not wait.  She isn’t sure what though.  Figure out how to take better care of herself?   Try to repair broken relationships?  One thing stands out though is her daughter.  The daughter that is seventeen.  The ghosts from the past and the ghost of the present tell her not to make the same mistakes her parents made with her, as she watches her daughter in her last year of high school.  Things become fuzzy again.  The train takes off.

She meets the ghost from the future.  She gets on the train and things are fuzzy. She knows a year from now her daughter will be away at college. She feels bittersweet.  She seems to see different things as she looks out the left window of the train…as opposed to the right window.  Outside the left window life seems cold and lonely, her bones ache,  Outside the right window, things are warmer, more cozy and comfortable, filled with love. Her husband is by her side.  She leans against him.  What is the ghost from the future trying to tell her?

She is asleep again, in a daze from the rhythm of the train.  She wakes up again.  She blinks and it is morning.  Her mind sluggishly embraces the challenge of a new day. The dog gets in bed with her and gives her a kiss.  She puts her shoes on so she can take the dog out.  The sun is out.  She smiles.  She has no pain.  The world is her oyster.  She goes back inside and makes breakfast for her family, ready to share the warmth of her love. 

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