- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The train rocked back and forth on the rickety rails while sunlight streamed through the paned windows. The fourth car from the end was occupied by about thirty passengers. Inside the car, some of the passengers had their eyes closed and mp3 players on while they rested their heads on the side of the train. Others looked exhausted and simply stared off into the distance without acknowledging the sights and sounds around them. They were experiencing the type of exhaustion that is cumulative. Over time, this exhaustion builds throughout the body as memories build throughout the mind, blossoming and extending into every crevice. Starting slowly at first, it is an ever-growing weight on our muscles, our brains, our hearts, and our souls. Its effects, however, are not immediately felt. But one day it will be a little bit harder to wake up, to get out of bed, to pay attention to a conversation, to do anything. It is the exhaustion of living. It’s when the years of life take their toll and suddenly you’re waiting to die.
Other passengers were engrossed in the latest crime thriller or browsed the morning paper. One such person was a grey-suited businessman who sat facing a young woman and her son. He appeared to be in his sixties and had a thin white beard below his pursed lips. He focused a pair of piercing blue eyes on the future, intent on the financial success of his company. He immediately gave the impression that he was a lifelong believer in the dictum “time is money”, for any distraction, any unnecessary words were a waste of potential capital. He had an affinity toward wealth and power and had no sympathy for the people in his life. He apathetically allowed old friendships to whither and fade while maintaining silence and separation from his two younger siblings. This apathy was like a noxious smoke that blanketed his character as well as his business suit and slowly saturated the air of the train with its foul stench. Instead of wasting effort and energy on the futility of human relationships, his corporate reputation and material wealth took priority above all else. He confidently held today’s newspaper in front of his face, but as a mask of sorts. A mask against what, however, one could only presume.
A sense of disengagement and subtle discontent permeated the stale, oppressive air and actively plagued the passengers’ lives. If the train were to be treated like a human with the conductor representing the heart, then the pulse of such a body, the passengers, was faint and at times unresponsive. To the outside observer it seemed as if they were no longer active participants in shaping the course of their lives and, in fact, had no desire to be. Instead, they had lost all faith in the possibility of a grander future. As a single monotonous entity, they were predictable in their daily routine, indifferent in their attitude, and unsatisfied in the lives they led.
One man, however, stood apart from the crowd, though by character only. As a man in his mid-twenties, he was tall, measuring over six feet at least, clean-shaven, and wore a standard button-down shirt and tie. The shirt was white and the tie was dark blue, the type of blue that was infinite, that which held within it the depth of the ocean or the night sky. The rest of his outfit was commonplace and, truthfully, was of no significance whatsoever. He wore black shoes, pants that strained to reach his socks, and a grey trilby. He held a nondescript trench coat folded close to his chest as if at any moment someone might steal it. He briefly checked his wrist watch and noted the time: the train was running two and a half minutes behind schedule. At his feet lay two modest brown paper shopping bags and a thin black briefcase. But these physical characteristics alone held within them no means of separation for you could pass him on the sidewalk without a second thought, presuming him to be no different than the passengers he now accompanied.
Instead, it was through his humble persistence he had developed as a young man which defined him as someone who deserved to be fought for. If he was to be known and understood in his entirety (and, after all, that is a significant thing), then it would also be known that he was worth it. He was worth the amount of effort necessary when forming a relationship. He was worth any struggle and any sacrifice because of the courage he secretly possessed. While the passengers simply cowered in fear and tried to survive from one day to the next, the man attempted to thrive. He refused to forfeit his life. He refused to wake up in bed at the ripe, old age of sixty with nothing but the ashes of a wasted youth and pace around until the knowledge of a thousand past regrets flooded his mind. TRANSITION.
From a young age he recognized himself as the type of person who was quiet. The type of person who noticed things about the world but so often wasn’t noticed himself. For example, he noticed the automatic capacity by humans to love and even went so far as to recognize his own fears about love. He feared saying, “I love you” and having to mean it. He feared the day he would give his whole heart to someone, trusting them to take care of it. He didn’t know how to do that.
Growing up, he always imagined himself living alone, an idea that became reality two years before when he bought a small one bedroom apartment. Each day when he left for work, a 1938 Royal Typewriter sat at a desk by his bed, content in its daily use. There was a certain freedom that came from being alone and he thrived in it.
At his heart he was a lover of books. And the only books worth reading, he believed, were the ones that broke your heart. The ones that, after reading the final page, left you with an overwhelming sense of grief, a loss for words, and the strange feeling of abandonment by friends who do not exist. We are forced to say goodbye to the characters we’ve come to love and somehow we must learn to fend for ourselves while at the same time wondering how we ever managed to do it before.
Growing up, he was also a fiercely private person and rarely allowed others to truly know him. He often thought of this social limitation as a brick wall that involuntarily existed between him and every other living person. As a teenager, he had often envisioned this wall as a prison in which he was trapped and incarcerated. This prison was one of self-deprecation and was the root, the core, of his unhappiness. Although he felt comfortable in this prison, it deprived him of any and all possibility and opportunity.
As a young boy, he was shy and awkward and struggled to make new friends. In fact, he was never comfortable in any social situations or, when the position was forced upon him, leadership roles. In school he was a nerd, vividly interested in everything from history and English to science. Although he loved to learn, class participation was a rare treat for his teachers. In high school, he left as silently as he had arrived and by the time of graduation he had barely made an impression.
While sitting on the train, for the first time in his life he felt the calm assurance of stability. He began to look at his life as though he had already lived it. Where before he had only seen an uncertain future, he now saw a steady income, a possible home, and a source of potential happiness. Starting his job at a new publishing company, he liked to think he had come out of his shell. He now had an unfaltering desire to carve his own path in the world without relying on those around him. He was eager to begin his life. Whether or not he would live this life alone, however, was unbeknownst to him. After all, it was only a week ago when he first met her.
He remembered the morning in every detail. It was the Sunday before last and he was sitting in a small coffee shop reading The Bell Jar for the second time. He had immersed himself in the novel, reading with the subtle care of someone looking for a deeper purpose until he heard a small bell that broke his concentration. Someone entered through the front door. She moved swiftly across the room and sat at a table in the corner against the far wall. He lifted his eyes and peered over the book at a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties. She wore an oversized navy blue sweatshirt and had long, dark hair that was pulled back into a loose ponytail. As chance would have it, the majority of her face was covered by a thick black book supported by two slender hands. Loose strands of hair fell in front of her face, the tips of which made contact with the end of her nose and another with the side of her cheek. MORE. He did not, contrary to popular belief, instantly fall in love. To suggest such a thing would be absurd. As best as he could determine, he first saw her as someone interesting, intriguing, fascinating, and perhaps even mysterious.
Looking back, his heart suddenly fluttered with the possibility of love. He allowed his mind to flow with the musings of a naïve fantasy. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen someone so compelling; someone he noticed the most minute and irrelevant details about. He bowed his head and shook it with a knowing smile on his face. He knew the truth: this was nothing more than a game played by his heart to avoid confronting a lonely truth. MORE.
As he sat on the train, he subconsciously observed the passengers while his mind slowly rose from these thoughts. He looked around at the other passengers on today’s train with a renewed sense of vigor, as if fresh air had been breathed into him.