It’s quiet tonight. You can hear the train down the hills from me rumble towards the West Coast. It’s the same train my friend jumped on a lark and ended up almost frozen to death in Deming before it slowed down enough to jump off. Another friend had to drive all the way out to pick him up.
The train rides the tracks that split us from them, north from south, rich from poor, ...First World from Third. Wherever I go, people ask me how far I live from Mexico. My answer depends on my mood: it depends on my story telling tank – if it’s full or empty.
If it’s full it could be a long winded answer. It could be the five-minute drive answer, which could lead to the story of driving back alleys late at night from Juarez to Westside parties as fast as we could, racing each other through Kern then up Mesa.
It could be the stone’s throw answer, which brings back the memory of a long walk around the neighborhood of a house I bought with my own money. The walk peaked at a dead end overlooking the river and the bridge that carried that train west.
If the tank is empty and I’m tired, the story will start and end with, “A few miles, I don’t know really. I never thought about it.”
The truth is I have thought about it, but the truth is also that I don’t know how far it is. Not very far I guess. The train that I hear at night is heard from the other direction as well. I wonder what my mirror image is doing on that side. I wonder if the train is annoying: the loud whistle blowing, car after car carrying TVs and microwaves, things we need.
Sometimes I get tired of caring and I think about other things instead. I make big plans in my head. I talk and talk about what I am going to do. This and that; that and this. Then it gets quiet and I hear a train gunning up the engines to get through the pass.
It makes me think, and then I start to care again.
By Jim Ward of Sparta