And yet, the child draws closer.
He hears the belch of the steam engine, the bossy commands of the conductor. All around him on the platform, strangers with suitcases and bulky shopping bags push past.
The boy looks left to right, and he thinks it is strange that nobody seems upset or worried by the dreadful sounds filling the air.
Holding tight to his father’s hand, his voice swallowed by the fearsome roar of the the engine, the boy feels smaller than he remembers ever feeling before.
And yet, still he approaches.
This machine has its own form of gravity. It is big and terrible, but good and amazing at the same time. The boy steps forward, taking the lead. He is ready to board the train.
Climbing up the steep and awkward stairs, he rounds the corner. He is amazed by what he sees. Who could have imagined people would be smiling and sitting in rows? How strange it is to walk around inside this creature which crouched over him just moments ago!
The boy notices how this place is not at all like the inside of his home, with its white walls, warm blankets, a cat curled up on the couch. No, this is something different, though comfortable in its own way.
The boy and his father make their way down the aisle. All around, he sees big, bright windows and wide, padded seats. The smell of leather and rubber, all mixed up with hot sandwiches, coffee, and wet rain boots. There’s a promise of comings and goings, a general feeling to the air that makes the boy think of Easter holidays.
Anticipation travels up from the floor and through the boy’s body. He knows that the creature beneath him is waiting to leave. “Hold on, everyone!” he wants to cry. He grips his father’s hand even tighter as they find a seat toward the rear of the car.
“All aboard!” the conductor calls out. “All aboard!” A heavyset women drops into her seat across the isle, her two black-haired children elbowing each other for space by the window. She smiles and winks at the boy.
The passengers, it seems, are ready to go. All that is needed is the work of the engineer.
A few moments later, the whistle wails out–loud even to those seated near the rear of the train. Then, a sudden surge and a metallic squeal. The boy’s body rocks forward, and then back again. He laughs, nervously. After a few more jolts, the train seems to settle into itself, gliding along. The rails make a regular sound: click, clack, click, clack.
The boy turns and presses his face to the cold window. He sees someone waving and he starts to wave back, but the man slides backwards and out of his view. Then, the station swings past. After that, more buildings and a parking lot, grassy lawns, tangled underbrush, and at last, trees.
A couple of times, he spots a crossing gate; he looks for the flashing signal, but misses it. A rapid “ding, ding, ding” is heard, but only briefly.
The boy settles back into his seat just a little. His breath becomes more steady as the rhythm of the train enters his body. His father pats his head briefly and then shakes open a newspaper.
This is the kingdom of transport. The boy isn’t exactly sure where he is going, but everything seems to be alright for now. He is ready to stay in this place for a while.
Flickr Photo Credit: Sheba_Also