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The Dreamer Pacific
The old train always seemed to rock him back and forth, as if trying to comfort him. He wasn't easy to be comforted. He knew it too; he had been trying to do just that for 10 years. He looked into the stars, maybe hoping for a shooting star- Maybe he was hoping the stars would dance for him. Or maybe he was just waiting for the light of the stars to slowly fade away, letting his weary eyes rest. It was cold out tonight, and the open side of the abandoned train car, where he usually sat with his legs hanging over, let the rushing air fill every corner of the car. Loneliness. Cold. Guilt. The feelings came all too easy. Of course he deserved it.
He gripped the icy handle that kept him from falling from the speeding train.
He would never admit it, but sometimes he would loosen his grip, and quietly hope the rickety train would let him fall.
It was exactly 10 years ago he spent his first night on the train. A night he will always remember, But one he will always try to forget. The train, called "Dreamer Pacific", rarely made stops along its ocean-side tracks. He wasn't sure what the train carried, who drove it,or where it even went. All he knew, if he did actually end up seeing another human being, he would have no idea how to act-- He'd spent 10 years thinking; 10 years talking to the wind, 10 years dreaming of a life he wasn't living.
He was a mess. The crescent shaped moon mirrored the bags under his eyes. His eyes stung from the salty air . He knew his hair was long, because it whipped his face like little needles in the freezing wind--
If you looked at his face in the moonlight, you would see age, shadows, eyes that didn't sparkle. You would notice the thick beard hugging the sides of his neck, the smile lines mocking his past. You would see a person that looked more than sad. You would see someone who drove himself mad.
The screaming wind and shrieking train were the only thing that were louder than is ever-racing thoughts.He always imagined his mind like this train. Always moving fast, but going nowhere. He closed his eyes and let himself sink back into his memories - something he never did. Tonight was a special night, well, it was.. 10 years ago.
" Daddy! Daddy!" Eliza shrieked in delight, "look at my ballerina slippers! I'm going to look like a princess tonight!" He had chuckled ,and grabbed her little hand to twirl her around like he always did. They were in her yellow room with flowers and glow-in-the-dark stickers on the walls. The pink wooden rocking chair she loved was in the corner, all of her favorite bedtime stories and fairy tales stacked messily on a nightstand, and her bunny-shaped nightlight was shining a brilliant pink.
"You are going to be wonderful tonight, Liza!" he said, just as excited as she was. Tonight was her first ballet recital, and she couldn't be more thrilled.
Eliza had just turned five last spring, and lessons at a ballet studio was her only wish for her birthday.It was pricey, but he and his wife, Amy, would do anything to make his only daughter happy. They had been struggling with work, but they dedicated all of their free time to be with little Eliza.
Eliza had mild autism, And She always had the biggest smile; but little did he know it would be the smile to haunt his dreams in the future.
"What if I mess up?" Eliza was in his arms. "Will you be mad?", she asked with her crystal blue eyes looking into his.
He smiled. He couldn't never be mad at Eliza. "Of course not sweetie, I will be there cheering you on the whole time, okay?" He stroked her light brown hair with his hand.
" Do you promise?" she said, pointing a little finger at him and holding a menacing expression. They both laughed, him louder than her. "Yes, I promise", he giggled. Eliza danced around the room and started singing the song he sang to her at night, she loved it so much she sang it all the time. At school, during breakfast, she even would sing it when she was shopping at the grocery store with her mom.
"If elephants and rabbits could fly, maybe I could touch the sky. The moon is watching when you sleep, the stars will try to catch the sheep. Dreaming of the land above-" He smiled and joined with her. "You'll stay forever with my love. It's not as far as it may seem, just close your eyes it's time to dream". It was a silly song and he loved to sing it with her.
Amy, his wife, walked into the room and put a sparkly headband on Eliza. "Okay are we all ready to go?" she asked, smiling a radiant smile.It was a smile he didn't see very often. Behind closed doors it was always fighting and arguing-"If you only-" this, and "why do you always-" that. It seemed as if Eliza was the only thing holding them together.
"Yup!" Eliza chimed and raced to the car.
After 10 minutes of driving and excited chitter-chatter coming from Eliza, they had reached the auditorium the recital was going to be held at. Eliza was quick to get out of her seat and was already cheerily waving across the street to her friends. He looked at his wife. "I'll be a minute. I'll meet you inside". He wanted to think. He never had the time. After they crossed the street, Eliza,skipping, and Amy trying to keep up, He leaned his head back, and closed his eyes.
Lately his thoughts had been racing, and sleep came rarely- and if it did, it was anything but pleasant. He knew he could be losing his job any day now, and things had been hard for the past year. He tried to calm his mind while music coming from the building was drifting in and out of his thoughts like wind.He heard the laughter of his daughter ringing in his head, The forced smile of his wife imprinted into the back of his eyelids.
He knew for the past few months he'd been driving himself insane, his thoughts revolving around little Eliza. What if something bad happened to her? Just at thoughts like those, a pain of no other twisted his gut, tormenting his mind. He racked his mind for an explanation. Why couldn't he get a hold of himself?
Why couldn't he imagine a happy future with his family? His mind was screaming at him- each thought different, yet none of them good. His heart was being pulled like taffy, and he was sure he couldn't even talk. The inside of his soul felt as if it was being hollowed out, happiness was being sucked out of him. He had no idea why. He felt dizzy and the thoughts in his heads were getting louder. What is love? Why am I wasting my time when I could be happy?You are a sad man aren't you? He opened his eyes and ran. He ran to the auditorium.
He opened the door. Music and fuzzy lights replaced his thoughts. He looked around at the crowd in metal chairs. He looked at the stage. It became obvious to him he had walked in during a performance. Eliza was center stage, crying. It was a sort of crying that made you want to cry with her. She was looked up at him in her little pink tutu, across the auditorium. He knew what she was thinking. " I promise", he had said. The tension in the room was thick. The piano had stopped playing. A couple parents looked back at him, concerned. She mouthed the words" You said you'd be here", her eyes were red , and her nose was running. He was searing with frustration, at himself, for everything.
That is when it happened. He ran. He ran across the street, down the road, and towards the beach. He was a man that ran away from his problems- but how do you run away from yourself? He ducked under trees and ran across the shore. That was the moment he found the train. It was on an old train platform, behind a brick wall,and it seemed the train was about to leave. He brushed the tears from his face, noticed the empty car. He lifted himself onto the cold, rusty surface, and slowly crawled into the corner, his hands getting cut on the jagged metal floor. The tears in his eyes froze, and he sharply inhaled the salty ocean air, when the train started at a quick jolt, the whistle piercing his ears. He almost thought he heard Eliza cry out to him, but that could have been the whining of the old train.
It had been ten years trapped in his own mind, And he hadn't had release. Tied by guilt, and possibly stupidity. Maybe he wasn't even on a train. Maybe, he had gone completely loony, and he was in a mental hospital. Maybe, he had died and gone to hell. He couldn't even remember his own name.
He sighed. He looked into the stars and imagined that he was back with Eliza- and the stars were just the glow in the dark stickers in her room. But of course, she will have changed her room by now. She would be 15. She would never recognize him. If She did, it wouldn't matter. She probably hated him. He tried to imagine how the rest of the ballet recital went; He imagined Amy running up to comfort Eliza. He imagined Eliza dancing and leaping with grace. He imagined Eliza bowing with the little curtsy she practiced so many times with him.
10 years on a train. A prisoner to his darkest imagination. He smiled a lonely smile.
"If elephants and rabbits could fly, maybe I could touch the sky. The moon is watching when you sleep, the stars will try to catch the sheep. Dreaming of the land above, You'll stay forever with my love. It's not as far as it may seem, just close your eyes it's time to dream". He still sang that to Eliza every night.