Union Station to Newport News
Friday night -- 11:12 p.m.
The train left Union Station nearly two hours late, delayed from Boston by skittish freight trains made jumpy by terrorist threats. Those guys, they got everyone jumpy.
A man almost came to blows with a conductor in the waiting area by the tracks. "Don't you swear at me," he shouted. "Motherfucker, I'll quit swearin' at you when you stop trying' to put your got-damn hands on me," the conductor replied. Another conductor stepped between the two and placed his palm on his colleague's chest.
It looks like a movie theater after the lights have come up in here. The train is littered with the remnants of snacks consumed through sheer boredom. Cardboard trays contain the thick plastic space suits of alien sandwiches created in a laboratory high above earth, and overpriced bottles of Corona lean on those suits like toppled, forgotten statues.
People have settled comfortably among the debris. We are an adaptable species, and we nestle comfortably into our own refuse. I am esconced in cocoon of technology and crumbs, wires crossing my lap to recharge the cell phone, to power my laptop. A book sits next to me like a sandwich wrapper, evidence of an experienced gobbled hastily, out of boredom. I have made no friends on this trip.
Fat women with poorly behaved children occupy the seats by the doorway to each train car. The kids are antsy, tired of suckling the glowing rectangular teat and race in the aisles. I nearly decapitate a writhing toddler with my bag. It hurts me more.
Two women with delicate Zorro moustaches, swaddled in brilliant swaths of colored gore-tex chatter aimlessly about family with one another and over cell phones intermittently. A gargantuan man with a bald head, full beard and a belt buckle shaped like a wad of 50 dollar bills nods to me and says "'Sup playa, help a brother out with this big old cardboard box?"
Now it is dark and the train is sleeping and creaking. nobody walks, everyone sleeps except me and the train itself, banging its way through the night.