In movies, when the train leaves the station, everybody is waving and the mom is crying and the adventure-seeker is standing at the window smiling an emphatic goodbye. The farewell scenes neglect the desultory bits that make the whole process thoroughly gut wrenching. What actually happens is the pathetic and futile drawnouttothelastsecond waiting side by side. There are no last words to give your father, until you meet again. Nothing to say to the stoic brother or the weeping mother that encompasses all the guilt of leaving them for something “better.”
So it’s waiting and clinging to the agonizing silence, until it can’t be put off any longer. The families watch from the platform, their hungry eyes searching the windows for the first glimpse of their treasure hunting loved one, the last glimpse of him for a period unknown. And the pride in the eyes of the fathers mirrors the shame in the hearts of the travelers. I don’t know what I’m doing. Or why.
Why can’t the train just whisk away everything, erasing the chalky expressions on the abandoned families, as passengers scream I love yous into the railway ether? It’s nice actually, to watch over them, from the viewing window of the car, at first. It’s what being dead feels like to a 6 year old girl. But when the left behind catch the eye of the departed, and stare back into it with pride or loss or fear or worst of all, love, the traveler begins to yearn for a death that is no illusion.
What do they want? A puppet show from the window? This is the last chance to say or do something worth saying or doing, but the best we have is just to keep waiting. Stare into the faces lined with an anxiousness that is both hope and dread and realize you never really stared before. Just when each of us has started to memorize the creases and the sparkle, the train will finally lurch. Too slow, too abrupt, too long, too late, too suddenly, and too soon.