AMTRAK RESIDENCY, DAY 3
Sleep and trains just don't belong. Maybe they do, if you're on a trip for leisure. But if you're a writer running on adrenaline fumes, it's impossible to close your eyes. So many things are happening, so many sights are passing the windows, I kept my eyes peeled until I couldn't keep them peeled anymore. Not to mention, I was reading THE EXORCIST again, and, naturally, that only added to the excitement. This day though, upon waking, I was startled by the color.
Everything was beige. Yesterday everything was white and snowy, and today everything was fawn and tawny and burnt sienna and bricks. Dusted. As if cut out of sand. The trees, brown. The sky, ochre. The water, muddy. As if a skin of color has been stripped to some crumbling bones. I couldn't shake off the feeling that there was no water, that every living thing has somehow desiccated, and yet it was beautiful in its own fashion. Creamy. Custardy. I wanted to taste it. I was mesmerized by this change in scenery, quickly swallowed breakfast, and started to write.
In the breaks between writing my roomette became a book gift shop. By now the staff of the whole train (or most of it) knew that I'm a resident writer, and I have successfully harassed them (mind you, with smiles and niceties) to buy my books. All these books I took with me just in case by the end of this way were gone! And I was served lunch in my roomette, again. And I wrote 2K words, again. And I have gotten used to this routine of writing to the movement. Whenever I felt stuck, I simply looked out the window and in the next few minutes I would be unstuck. The view always changed. And it was soothing, this change. Languid, not jarring, almost like a balm.
And I ate like a pig. I don't know what it is about train rides. Maybe all my writing and non-sleeping was burning something, but I scarfed breakfast, and not three hours later ate one lunch, thought a little bit, and ate another lunch, to the astounded face of my train attendant.
"But you already ate!"
"Yeah, I know, I'm a pig. I'm hungry again!"
After I got done writing, I wandered around taking pictures of the train and compartments and such, as part of the research of my book. I touched things. I smiled at things. I almost talked to things, like the seats and the curtains and the doors. If anyone saw me, they would've probably thought I was crazy. And one train attendant did, but he knew I was a writer and a crazy one at that, so he understood.
And then, bam! in no time we were in Chicago already! I just settled in to read and had to pack and leave the train. It felt like leaving a small family of people whom I just started to get to know, and it was sad, and I touched the train, holding on to it before letting go.
A lovely couple, Jacquelyn and Kristina, have picked me up from the Union Station on their maroon Ford and whisked me away to a quaint street that reminded me of quiet neighborhoods in Boston, populated with old brick rowhouses fronted with classic porches and steep stairs that run down onto the street. I squealed. I really did. I get to stay in their home for two days, write in the company of their adorable doggy, and on the 20th I'm boarding my next Amtrak train, Texas Eagle, to ride from Chicago all the way through Texas and arrive in LA to visit my daughter who, as you know, studies graphic design in Orange and makes the covers for all my books.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I get to sleep in a huge inflatable bed, and my head is still swaying from being in the train for so long. I will imagine the chugging of the wheels as my lullaby.