11.51 am: Very crowded train, surprisingly so. Don’t have a window seat, sadly, but hopefully my very nice neighbor is getting off before me so I can shift over. The window seat is highly desired real estate, which its advantage of both privacy and sockets, meaning I can watch one of the silly movies I downloaded onto my laptop from the TiVo without anyone seeing my predilection for romantic comedies. For now, I suppose, it’s just me and Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners.
11.56 am: And we’re off.
11.59 am: Back Bay.
12.03 pm: It is a gorgeous day, the kind that makes me wish I was either running around outside, or at home, asleep on the sofa. On an unrelated note, the conductor just announced he’s expecting it to be an extremely crowded train. Have my hopes for an eventual window seat been thoroughly dashed?
12.00 pm: Another conductor on the intercom now. Apparently what I am on, this train, is only the “Massachusetts extension,” which will connect with the “New York extension” in Albany, therefore tripling its entire length before heading out to Chicago. How fascinating — this train is like the necklace of snap-on beads I had as a girl.
12.13 pm: Oh no. My neighbor is disembarking at Albany too. It appears as though I am destined for a windowless ride.
12.22 pm: I think I might be onto something here. The couple sitting in front of me is getting off somewhere initialed SPB. Where could that be? Is it before ALB? If it is, I am totally getting that window seat.
12.24 pm: Framingham. We have just passed a bar called The Happy Swallow. I love it.
12.37 pm: When I was younger, I was hooked on a series of books called The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, which were reissued recently with horrible new cover art. Regardless of their outward appearance, the books were about a girl from our world who gets transported (long story) to another full of magic, mystery and unicorns; whenever we went on long car trips, I would imagine I was instead riding a unicorn. This didn’t make the ride any shorter, but it was fun nevertheless. Oh, and my unicorn was solid black with white stockings and a perfectly symmetrical blaze in the center of his forehead, from which his silver horn would emerge. He didn’t have a name, by the way. I used to just call him My Unicorn.
12.42 pm: Passing a frozen marsh with sleeping trees sticking out of the ice like needles on a porcupine’s back, if the porcupine had the mange. You know, I’ve never seen a porcupine in real life and don’t know if they can even get the mange, but let’s just say they can.
12.47 pm: Depressing-looking warehouse on a shabby rust-colored parcel of land.
12.54 pm: Worcester. How did that word ever start getting pronounced Woosta?
1.04 pm: I am getting sleepy but I’m scared that if I give in to my tiredness, I will lose the opportunity to swap seats. But my eyelids are so heavy.
1.11 pm: Woods, ice-covered hills, sheep and horses whose steaming breath I can imagine casting shadows in the sun.
1.24 pm: All right, I’m going to sleep. For the record, Emily Post didn’t do this to me; I find the book very interesting, and am really looking forward to chatting about it at book club next weekend. My drowsiness has more to do with my going to bed past two and waking up at seven.
2.00 pm: Apparently we are coming up to Springfield, which is supposedly what SPB stands for. I must pounce on those seats.
2.04 pm: Ah, a window, how lovely.
2.08 pm: Springfield, under a sky streaked with clouds.
2.12 pm: I’m watching I.Q., which I remember enjoying very much when I was in high school. It’s about Einstein and love — what’s not to like? Plus, there is a quartet of elderly men who speak in Germanic accents… fantastic.
2.17 pm: Moving again, this time over water, via a bridge of course. How strange would it be if suddenly the train could levitate, or operate over water?
2.24 pm: The kid who took my former seat is 1) a loud talker who 2) must be on the phone at all times. I’ve got I.Q. on at maximum volume and yet I have more of a handle on this kid’s girl issues than I do on Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan.
2.32 pm: Apparently, the kid behind me wants to go to a party tonight with a certain girl, who has told him that she would like to go, but won’t because she only can stay for fifteen minutes. He thinks this is a lie and is frustrated. There is also something about eleven dollars, but I need to hear more before I can fully understand the problem.
2.42 pm: The kid is off the phone!
2.43 pm: The kid is back on the phone. He kind of wants to see “that movie with Drew Barrymore.”
2.55 pm: The kid is picking up Kaylie at 4.30, after which they will go to dinner. Then, they’re going to meet up with Steph and Rob and go to either He’s Just Not That Into You or Friday the Thirteenth, depending on what’s showing at the more convenient time.
3.03 pm: A bit of a waterfall, one that looks like it would be fun to raft. After my maiden rafting voyage, I got off the river with a black eye, my very first. I wore it like a badge, a brooch, a medal. It was a great time.
3.17 pm: I’ve lost track of how many abandoned or abandoned-looking buildings we’ve passed. What could they all have been for? What were they full of, and why? And why were they left to fall into disrepair? How much have those windows seen, or those walls, or each brick?
3.23 pm: There is an adorable little baby on the train, maybe something like two years old. I can’t remember how many times the people who I can only assume are his parents have walked him up and down the car aisle. Honestly, until he passes, I’ve forgotten he’s even in this carriage because he’s so quiet and mid-mannered, unlike most babies. He just walked up to me and placed his hand gently on my thigh. Very forward. His mother, quite young, gasped and said, “I knew he was a flirt, but this is ridiculous!” He’s so adorable, his cheekiness is completely excusable.
3.33 pm: I have noticed that the kid on the phone says the word okay as though it has three syllables and not just two. Oh-kay-ay.
3.40 pm: It’s always a little awkward when a person by herself, such as me, starts to giggle uncontrollably to herself, as I am doing right now. Oh, romantic comedies! Unrelated: Meg Ryan’s got this killer black and white dress in this film that I would happily wear today, tomorrow, forever.
3.46 pm: Pittsfield, where there is much more snow than in Boston.
3:53 pm: Marcella just sent me a picture of three of the dogs currently at her house. At first, I think the photo is only of Chloe the Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix and Audrey the yellow Lab. Upon second glance, I realize Amelia Bedelia the Peke-a-poo is in the photo too; it’s her curly butt visible next to Audrey. Not pictured, Nathan and Niña, the Daschunds.
3.59 pm: Finished I.Q., back to Emily Post.
4.06 pm: I don’t think I would like to live so close to the train tracks as some of these houses. It’s not so much the noise, which would undoubtedly irritate me most nights, but instead the thought of possibilities passing by. People en route to a place which is not here, and all that — this would be unbearable. We also just flew by six houses, completely identical in every fashion except for color, by which I mean different shades of white: stark white, creamy white, blueish white, yellowed white, pinky white, greenish white. This is near Austerlitz, New York, by the way; now we’re running parallel to the Thruway, which makes me think, What did this all look like, before we put our irremovable stamp on it? Though there are patches thickly covered in trees, I don’t think that makes it any easier to imagine this land covered with nothing but. There are traces of us everywhere, and by that I mean barbed fences, litter and oxidized signs nailed to the occasional trunk.
4.19 pm: Passing by another series of warehouses. Each window has been smashed. By whom? When? These are questions I will never know the answer to.
4.24 pm: Not that I’ve been spying on her or anything, but the woman sitting across from me has been staring ad her face reflected in a compact mirror for something like fifteen minutes. She’s not putting on lipstick or retouching her eye shadow — she’s just staring.
4.33 pm: A field with snow melted on it in such a way it looks like glaze on a cupcake. I wonder if any rabbits live there.
4.37 pm: We have stopped, for reasons unknown. The last time I took the train to Albany we stopped just outside the city as well, but because buffalo were crossing the tracks and refused to pick up the pace.
4.44 pm: Moving again. No buffalo though, that I can see.
4.50 pm: I’m here…!