The trains are moving back and forwards through the yard, none of them look like they’re leaving any time soon. I don’t even know where I want to go, most of them will go south. Maybe I should just go south, it’s warmer down there, the wind and rain is starting to get to me. The car with the security guard has gone past a few times, not enough for me to be worried about him, I’m done with worrying, I’m sitting here waiting because I don’t want to worry anymore.
I arrive home from work, my small apartment spotlessly tidy. I fall onto the sofa exhausted, another 13 hours gone by, another pay cheque, all I have to do now is fall asleep and do it all again tomorrow. I’m too tired to even read a book, watch television, my mind is fuzzy, not able to think straight. As my eyes start to close I hear the two people next door arguing, I can’t make out the words, it’s just noise. A door slams and I hear footsteps walking away, sounds of crying through the wall. Welcome home.
I roll up my sleeping bag, ready to go. The train yard has a strange orange glow as the setting sun breaks through the clouds, the rain stopping. I take a long drink from the can of beer and throw the rest of it into the bushes. This train looks like it’s leaving, let’s just hope it’s going in the right direction. It passes my little hideout slowly, carriage after carriage of freight, coal and chemicals. It stops, now is my chance, I jump out from the bushes and look left and right, making sure no one can see me. There’s no one there. I throw my bag into the back of one of the trailers carrying those long cargo boxes, grab the steps and climb up, lying down so nobody can see me.
Sitting on the bus in the morning, barely awake. It’s all automated, I just go through the motions, I don’t even need to think anymore. Putting my clothes on, walking to the bus stop, getting on to the bus. If I wasn’t on the bus I wouldn’t even remember walking to the bus stop. We pass a railway yard, I notice there’s a man running towards one of the freight trains, he throws his bag inside and then jumps in himself. Is he a worker? Where would he even be going on a freight train? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?
I wait, everything is silent, waiting for the lurch of the train, pulling it’s never ending line of cargo to some place unknown to me. It jumps, picking up speed as it pulls out of the yard. I peek over the edge my hiding place, the security car sitting there watching the train to see if they can spot people like me, people that aren’t supposed to be there, unwanted cargo. We pull off into the darkness, away from the bright lights of the yard I sit back against my bag, at least I’m moving now.
Nobody acknowledges me as I walk into the office. No ‘hello!’ or ‘good morning!’. They’re all just sat at their desks looking at computer screens. Not even work, just reading nonsense about what the latest celebrity has done, or looking at pictures of their friends in far off exotic places, secretly hating it them while they write out some comment telling them how beautiful their pictures are. It’s just torture isn’t it? Constantly looking at things we wished we had and never giving a thought to the things we do have. I laugh to myself, I am most guilty of that.
I drift in and out of an uneasy sleep, the train bumping along the tracks. I dream of being back home, hearing the door knob turn and my father coming in from work, picking me and swinging me around as I laugh, my mother watching and smiling. I wake suddenly, expecting to be lying on a bed but I’m not, just cold metal. The sun has risen already, a lake to my left, mountains trailing off into the distance. This is better than waking up in a bed.
My manager talks to me but I’m not taking any of it in. I stopped taking any of it in years ago. There’s nothing that she says that is of any meaning. I know what I am doing, I know what I am supposed to do. She knows that too, but she has to feel like she’s doing something, doing her job even though it isn’t necessary. She rolls her eyes and walks away to do the same to the person in the cubicle next to me. A pantomime repeated over and over, day after day, year after year.
The noise and the incessant bumping are made easier by the beautiful scenery. How is it that beauty can remove us from our immediate surroundings? Right now, I’m not on a train, I’ve not just got a bag and the clothes I have on my back. I’m seeing snow topped mountains and beautiful blue lakes, there’s nothing else, just me and nature. Is this escapism or is it how it should really be? Why is appreciating beauty and letting your mind wander escapism? Why is taking off into the wilderness, living a life different to everyone else running away?
I look up at the clock, it’s time to go. Everyone walks out at the same time, barely speaking to each other, just exchanging a few words. I walk to the bus stop, the rain is soaking my clothes but I’m not bothered. I push onto the bus, there’s hardly any space to move, people pushing and shoving, tutting and being aggressive with each other even though they all have the same objective, get home and fall asleep, maybe if you’re lucky you have kids and you can spend some time with them. I’m not that lucky, it’s just me.
The train comes to a sudden halt, back to my surroundings. I’d got so lost I didn’t realise we’d stopped just outside a town. Do I stay on or do I get off? There’s nothing here I would guess, this is the middle of nowhere. I grab my bag and jump off, change of plan, heading south can wait.
There’s a pile of letters in my mailbox. I pick them up and then throw them back down on my table with the rest of them, all unopened. Money, that’s all they will want. I sleepwalk my way through each day to make it, then I come home and have to give it all away again. I could keep it and run. Where would I run to though? Between my home and the office is a route and that route has a big invisible wall that you never go outside of. Sometimes you do climb it but when you’re outside of it you never feel comfortable, you just want to get back between them walls, the uncomfortable feeling of no escape is really your secret comfort.
I climb up through some trees and emerge on a road. I can hear the screeching of the train’s wheel as it pulls away, almost like it was waiting for me to get off. I don’t know when the next one will be through, it could be a long wait. I head along the road towards where the town should be, no cars are passing, this place really is the back of beyond. I’m hungry, I hope there’s somewhere to eat.
I wake up with my plate of dinner still resting on my stomach. I fell asleep without even eating. I take a bite but it’s stone cold, it would have been bad enough warm, I throw it in the rubbish bin. I pick up the letters from the table and throw them in too. The shower gives me enough energy to start the process of getting through the day. I reach for my briefcase and then stop, instead I pick up my backpack and throw some clothes into it, shut the door behind me and walk to the bus stop.
The town is empty, not a person on the streets. There’s what looks like a bar and an old diner next to it. There are some houses behind the main street but no sign of anyone. I approach the bar, I push the door expecting it to be locked but it swings inwards. It’s empty apart from a man sitting at the bar and someone I assume is the owner. Neither look up as I enter. I sit down at the bar,they still ignore me. I ask for a beer, he reaches under the bar and pulls a bottle out, putting it in front of me. I have nothing to open it with. I pop the top off using the edge of the bar and leave some money, I’ve not much left now.
The bus stops outside the train yard. I feel as though something is holding me to my seat, not letting me move. I force myself up and push through the crowds and out the door. People give me strange looks, wondering why is he getting off here today? It seems as though the bus is hesitating, it thinks I’ve got off at the wrong place, that I’m going to want to get back on. I turn away from it and walk with purpose to the fence of the yard. The bus pulls off.
The diner appears to be closed, I sit outside on a table sipping my beer, it should take the edge of the hunger. It doesn’t bother me much though, I’ll find something to eat. A man walks down the street, he keeps his eyes on me as he passes, then he waves and approaches me. I wave back, nervous, wondering what it is that he wants. He asks where I am going, I tell him I don’t know, he laughs and talks about the weather and then tells me there’s a train coming through at 8, he winks as he says it. Join him for a beer if I want. I agree and we walk back to the bar.
I see one of the trains starting to move as I jump off the fence. Where is it going? I look back to the bus stop, there’ll be another bus in a minute, I could just get back on that, I’d only be 10 minutes late. The train screeches. I run, copying the man I saw yesterday, throwing my bag onto the train and then climbing on. I sit there watching the city disappear, the countryside replacing the concrete. I’m free. I’ve left.
We sit together in the bar, drinking beer that he keeps paying for. He doesn’t say much, we sit drinking, each lost in their own thoughts. Eventually he looks at his watch, I look up at the clock, it’s almost seven. I start to say my goodbyes but he gets up to, walking out of the bar with me. As we walk back towards the spot I got off the train he looks at me.
“Once you’re free of that wall, you’re never going to be able to get back inside it…”