He always romanticized the train, running through the woods behind his tiny apartment. The roaring of the engine and the train whistle used to sing him to sleep at night. While walking his dog through the forest he would stumble across the tracks and take artsy pictures for his Instagram. On weekends he would go to the train station and travel to the nearby cities and sights. The train is where he read his favorite books, met up with his best friends, where he visited distant family instead of e-mailing back and forth. The train kept him connected. He pictured meeting another travelling spirit someday and their souls would connect and morph into a beautiful love, and they would ride the Amtrak all over the country, falling endlessly in love and creating stories they would tell their children and their children’s children.
But lately, the train has been luring him to darker fantasies. It started while walking his dog one day, one bad day, one depressing, bleak, overwhelming day. He loosened his grip on his dog’s leash and was fixated on those tracks. I could just lay here and end it all. He stood still, fantasizing about the tracks, until eventually the train flew by and broke his trance. He brushed off the thoughts and returned home. But as much as he shook them out of his head, the thoughts kept coming back. It would start with the late night train whistles through the woods and a passing image of him on the tracks. Eventually it would just be a lingering thought, always in the back of his mind.
The thoughts started to frighten him. The thoughts started to control him. The thoughts started to rule every aspect of his life.
He started Googling things like depression and anxiety, reading more and more. The longer he stayed on the internet the deeper he fell into a dark hole. It started off with a simple WedMd search, a post on Psychology Today. Eventually it turned into Yahoo Answers pages of “How to die painlessly” and images of self mutilation. Around 3 AM every morning it turned into train accidents, deaths via trains, and YouTube videos of people jumping off subway platforms.
He didn’t recognize who he was becoming. He felt possessed by the train, dreading the 10:50 whistle calling him home to God.
One night while drinking with his best friend he brought up he was depressed. His best friend laughed, and said isn’t everyone? He told his best friend that the weight of the world is coming down on his shoulders and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold on. His best friend said to man up. Eventually, he just stopped telling everyone about how hopeless he felt. He kept the train thoughts buried to himself. He wasn’t special; everyone was going through something. It didn’t matter that he was drowning every day, it didn’t matter that he was sinking. He felt alone in this world. He felt as though every day the train was calling his name, louder and louder, and he would eventually succumb to that evil whistle and lay on the track, waiting for his time to end.
He felt weak. He felt defeated. Every day he felt closer to the end. Still, at the end of every day, no matter how hard it was, no matter how strong the pull of the train was, he fell asleep in his bed. Even after hours of tears, yelling, and frantic thoughts, he fell asleep in bed. And every day he woke up, braver than he was the next day, clinging on to the little glimmer of hope that got him up and out of bed every morning. He couldn’t see it, but there was strength in that. Someday he would realize the power behind his resistance. Someday he would see his life was worth living.
Someday, he would wake up, and the train would just be a mode of transportation that has no other meaning but to fulfill his wanderlust heart.
But not today. The train whistle is taunting him and trying to call him home.