I came across an old journal. I was eighteen years old. Just graduated from high school. My mother and I were traveling from Minnesota to Washington State…by train. For my European audience, this might seem like nothing, a day trip on a fast train, a couple of journal entries at best. For my Americans, you know that I easily filled this book. It was not a fast train.
We boarded the train at night, still filled with the hopeful romance of it all. I went to sleep. Deep sleep. Deep dreams. Awakened six hours later. With no curve in her lips, the romance seemingly gone, my mother said, “We’re almost to Fargo.” (That’s a two hour trip by car.) Oof.
We started to look around. Not outside – we had seen this outside countless times. Inside. Now this was something. Those two men were sitting awfully close to each other. For a long time. Were they… I think they might be… yes, another trip to the bathroom confirmed it, yes, they were handcuffed, to each other. Transporting a prisoner. Were we in a movie? I wrote it down.
We went to the dining car. It was several away from our seats. Navigating between cars was tricky – not Indiana Jones tricky, but close. In the rattling we saw a man, well, “ratting” a woman. Maybe it was romantic after all. Returning to our seats later, we saw him sitting with his wife and child. Not the same woman. I wrote it down.
We had stops in unsavory depots. Mace was suggested. We didn’t have any. We only had each other. And the handwritten evidence that I was compiling in my journal.
A train derailed in front of us near the grand canyon. 6 hours later, watching only the motionless front of the train and the motionless back of the train out our window, we began the chug again.
I don’t remember if it was two days, or more, but oh, how we laughed. We found the story, wrote it down. Reread it. And laughed again. This inefficient, bumbling Amtrak gave us the greatest gift of all — time. I picked up my journal and held it in my hand. My heart rattled with joy, along with the prayers that time would actually, once again, slow to Amtrak pace.