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The sound of the train whistle brought me back to reality. Finally, I’ve been waiting for hours now. The train is still a bit far off, but the sound of its whistle is uplifting. I need to get out of this town. Everything lately has been falling apart.
I take a deep breath and bury my face into my arms. I let the tears flow, no use stopping them. It’s impossible. After a few minutes of tearing up, I wipe away my tears and notice that I am the only one in the station. It’s completely abandoned. I check my watch, midnight. Even though it’s late, this is still odd. The station is always buzzing around no matter what time of day.
The thought leaves my mind as I hear the train whistle, closer this time, and see its lights coming towards me. The closer the train gets, I see how long it is. For some reason the carts seem longer than usual, as if they were holding something of importance on them. It starts to slow down and the breaks give an eerie hiss. The first cart starts to pass me and I notice that it’s missing its roof and sides; it looks as if it were just a platform on wheels. Normal train carts are enclosed, enveloping those inside with warmth and protecting them from the darkness of the tunnels.
The next thing I know, the announcing system that announces when trains come and go startled me with a loud static sound. When the static cleared a voice came and said in a booming voice, “All aboard for Memory Lane!”
Questions immediately swarmed my mind. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to gather my thoughts. I questioned what Memory Lane was, did I sleep through my train ride to Sacramento, is there such a town called Memory Lane, am I still dreaming, the questions just kept coming and coming.
When I opened my eyes the train was now in front of me and I got a chance to see what was really going on. What I saw next nearly took my breath away. Standing there, upon the platform, was a beautiful woman dressed in an extravagant wedding dress. I started at her, admiring her beauty, and then my heart sunk. The woman standing there was Alice, the girl who was once my best friend, once my first kiss, once my inspiration, once my wife.
My eyes dart from Alice straight to the bottom of the cart. I noticed that not only did she look stunning, but also the cart that she was standing on. It looked brand new, the platform, the chains, the paint job, the frame, everything.
My eyes glance back over to Alice. Marrying her was the happiest day of my life and easily my favorite memory.
Wait. Memory… Memory Lane. Am I… am I going down my own Memory Lane? I must be dreaming. But… the sites, the sounds, it’s all too real.
Alice’s eyes meet mine and she begins to smile. It’s as if I feel our lips press together like they did at our very first kiss.
The first cart holding Alice on it becomes out of my site, heading back into the tunnel, being swallowed by the omnipresent darkness that follows.
The second cart rolls by and I immediately notice it’s just as in great condition as the first cart was. The platform finally comes into view and holds upon it a playground with two blue swings. On the swings, are of course, Alice and I as teenagers. This was where we first kissed. My teenage figure leans in and kisses Alice, almost missing. I laugh at the remembrance of it all, of how completely nervous I was.
I’m starting to feel happy. Maybe this is just a dream and I’m already on my train to Sacramento. I might as well go along for the ride down Memory Lane.
The second cart rolls away and here comes the third one. The exterior of the cart looks the same as the first, except I notice it has lost some of its gloss.
The platform is holding a hospital scene. I know exactly which memory this is, the birth of my son Ethan. There I am, holding Ethan in my arms, with Alice lying in the hospital bed. We’re both staring in amazement at Ethan. Holding your child for the first time is an unexplainable feeling. Emotions just rush through your body, thoughts race through your head, you just can’t help but to smile knowing that your life is about to change forever.
I lose site of the cart as it rolls into the tunneling darkness. Rolling right along is the fourth cart. I instantly notice the pallor of the cart isn’t as fine as the others were. The chains have begun to rust a little and there are a few chips in the platform.
Upon the platform lies a dinner table with three seats, each occupied by Alice, Ethan and I. I can see Alice crying, me slamming my fists on the table and blabbering out curse words and nonsense, and Ethan, now six years old, standing besides Alice attempting to comfort her. I start to feel sick. This was when things started going downhill; it was our first big fight. I can’t take back those words, I never even said those two words that can fix any wound, I’m sorry.
I close my eyes and just wait for this cart to pass, not daring to look back up. I keep them closed until I know it has passed.
I should have kept them closed.
The fifth cart is almost completely passed since I kept my eyes closed for so long. I only catch a few glimpses of it, but it was enough to make me break down. On the musty old cart was a table with alcohol and divorce papers. After our big fight, I became addicted, which inevitably resulted in our divorce.
This trip down Memory Lane made a wrong turn and is headed straight for my darkest memories, the ones I constantly try to keep locked away but they are literally rolling away right in front of me. These memories are like scars or tattoos gone wrong. I constantly see them, am constantly reminded of what I lost, constantly reminded that I once had it all. I blew it.
The fifth cart is finally completely entrenched by darkness. My eyes don’t dare move to look at the sixth cart. I don’t want to look at the platform; I’m scared of what it will hold next. My eyes meet the ground and pan over to the bottom of the sixth cart. Its appearance has changed immensely since the first, just like the memories have. The cart is utterly trashed. The paint is chipped away, the chains and wheels have rusted over, and parts seem to be loose and falling off.
I somehow gain the courage and look up. What I see is the memory that I have tried to push as far away from my mind as I could, but here it is, right in front of me, my suicide attempt. There on the platform stands a nightstand and a bed. Upon the nightstand is an empty bottle of sleeping pills. My emotions grow wild and I start to scream. This wasn’t what I wanted my life to become. This can’t be a dream, these emotions are too real. This pain is real. These tears are real. I shouldn’t even be here; I should be six feet underground. I’m on my feet now, heavy rivers flowing from my eyes. I just want this train to ride away into the darkness of the tunnels, of my mind, of whatever this place is.
Oh, but of course, there is one more cart left. What memory could possibly be worse than this?
Slowly, the last cart rolls to a stop in front of me. It’s in such bad condition, I have no idea how it’s running. It is literally falling apart, just like I am right now. I look up at the platform and to my surprise see myself sitting on a chair.
The character on the platform is dressed like I am now, in a dusty old business suit. We lock eyes for what seems like an eternity. I’m crying while he just stares at me. What is this memory supposed to be? What is he waiting for?
I notice I’ve been standing ever since the sixth cart rolled by and sit back down on the bench to recollect my thoughts. Think, think, think, what is this memory?
I decide to just ask the figure on the platform what this all is, nothing else seems to come to mind.
The questions just start flowing.
“Is this real? Who are you? What memory is this?” I ask.
The figure takes a deep breath and replies back in a similar voice like mine, but much more calm.
“This is real. I’m you. This is the memory of you living your life like this. Living in the shadows, losing the girl, never trying again, constantly giving up on hope…”
The figure keeps talking, but I tune him out. I think I’m going to be sick. This is all real, somehow. I have been living in the shadows, I have lost everything, I do give up, I constantly make meetings with death but run away at the last second. But why do I keep waking up every morning? Why do I not just give up completely?
The figure brings me back to reality, “Well, are you going to board or not?”
Do I want to live my life like this? Do I want to board this train that is reflecting the very soul of my mind?
I reply with a stern one word answer. “No.”
The figure seems to smile, the train whistle comes back to life and the engine starts again. It slowly starts to roll away and over the trains hums and whistles the figure yells something at me.
As soon as the train for Memory Lane rolls away, I bury my face into my arms and let scream as loud as I can. I just want this cruel twisted night to be over. I sit and silence and just sob. I don’t know how much time passes by but when I look back up, I almost faint.
It’s another train, but this time it’s just one cart. It’s in mint condition and has a beautiful aura to it. A figure comes into view, no surprise it’s me again. He has a big smile on his face, looks at me and says, “All aboard!”
After everything I’ve been through tonight, I should just leave this train station and never turn back, but something feels right about this train. I somehow gather the strength and stand up. One foot at a time, I slowly approach the cart and board it. I sit down and the figure looks at me and asks, “Where to, sport?”
Tears start to flow down my eyes, no not tears of sadness, but tears of happiness, tears of dreams, and tears of hope. This is it; this is what I’ve been waiting for, my new beginning.
I look at my figure directly in the eye, a smile beams across my face.