The Train Through Chocolate Mountain
There was a lot leading up to that train. The same could be said for any moment I suppose. Really when we consider the miracle of sentient ash and stardust and water, each moment was pretty profound and had quite a build up. So though it may be silly to say….
There was a lot leading up to that train. There were so many failed attempts to catch a train that I had long since decided that train hopping was a myth or an elaborate hoax put on me by a host of friends. There was a brutal abortion, a forest service raid and a fear of hitchhiking. There was the first period after the abortion, too much anal sex (yes, in some cases, it’s possible) and three months on a bicycle. There was the first of two matching tattoos on the back of my calves, the beginning of a blessing for my home, my coming to accept that home would likely never have a concrete foundation.
We were in Colton. Two newts from the northwest dried up in the dusty train yard. We ate a lot of beans and I was scared to pee too far away in case the train came. We waited a few days, the tops of our ratty heads blending into the tall dry grass. Our bikes were laid down on their sides, sleeping dragons covered in pockets and panniers and milk crates. Mine had baseball cards in the spokes.
Eventually we stood up and road our bikes somewhat east along the tracks to the second bridge that the crew change recommended. That’s where I met George. George was the kind of drunk that would die if he woke up without a drink. Literally he would seize up, he told me that he knew that some morning soon it was bound to happen. He just hoped someone would find and care for his dog when it did.
We drank a lot of malt liquor. I sent my travelling companion to the store six times. He was profoundly irritated by it but I didn’t care. For the first time since I said goodbye to baby, I didn’t feel lonely. George and I sang and told jokes and shot the shit all day long, getting tipsier and then drunker and then blacked outer. We got in a big fight when he told me, “My dog always walks in front of me and I always walk in front of my woman and that’s how it should be. My dog protects me and I protect my woman.”
We got through that fight and kept on being new best friends. I was a 17-year-old tree hugger and he was a 50 going on 80-year-old veteran. Our hearts bumped into each other under that bridge. We knew and cared for one another in the way that two people can do automatically in some certain circumstances.
At one point, rather close to our parting, tears welled up in the shockingly blue eyes that played peek-a-boo from under his thick white eyebrows. His beard was quivering. He was asking me how long I thought I would be able to drink like I did without finding myself with the same consequences he faced everyday. I laughed him off. I wasn’t the same as him. Then he was screaming, his face so close to my face. “You think you can fuck with this ?! YOU THINK YOU CAN FUCK WITH ALCOHOL! Your gonna keep going this way and one day you’ll wake up and you’ll be shaking so bad you spill half of your first beer! You think this is fun?! The day I wake up with nothing saved from the night before is the day I die because I wake up too sick to get out of my sleeping bag without a drink!!!YOUTHINKYOUCANFUCK AROUND LIKETHIS!!!!“
Tears shot out of his eyes, wet bullets all over my face and my 101 ragged scarves. My so- called boy friend figured it was time to leave, he picked me up by my collar and marched me and our bikes further east along the tracks. I was thinking about George. If he was right then my life was over because there was no way that a person like me ever put down a bottle. I figured it was best to stop thinking about this immediately and so I did.
When I woke up 200 yards from the bridge we continued walking east like George was already miles behind us. Eventually we got on our bikes and made it to the 10. We headed out frontage roads for some miles until we came to a historic truck stop that I heard recently has since closed.
Giant dinosaur statues roamed the parking lot of this gas station, diner, bar that had been made famous in the Pee Wee Herman Movie, the one where he looses his bike and can’t see or feel the love all around him because it is not shaped like a cherry red cruiser. I started approaching truckers to try to find us a ride into Tucson, my partner didn’t want to miss the gem show or an opportunity to bang his ex-girlfriend who would only be there three more days.
It was difficult. We were two people, not to easy on the eyes or nose, with two huge bikes and to top it off dude was laying under the brontosaurus, refusing to get up, cussing and moaning about how we would never get a ride. It didn’t work. Night came. We crossed over the freeway and out into the desert. We lay down near a solitary train track that cut through the sagebrush.
I woke and sat up with a start sometime in the middle of the night. The stars shown brightly on a train that was stopped right there. An open boxcar was directly before us. I blinked. I blinked again. Then I started yelling and shaking my friend. He blinked. He blinked again. Then he got up and started yelling.
I tied my sleeping bag around my waste with the inner tube that usually tied it to my bike. We each grabbed a bike and started to run for the train. Somehow our bikes had gotten swapped which would not have been a big deal except that I had spent 3 months knowing only the weight of my own wobbly horse. I was falling all over the place and when I finally got up to the train the weight of the sleeping bag made my pants fall down.
The gentleman I was travelling with grabbed me by the waist and the neck and threw me up into the boxcar. Then he threw both bikes in and then he climbed up. When he had caught his breathe he said, “If I had known you were going to take down your pants in front of the train I never would have agreed to try to catch one with you.”
That was fucking ridiculous. I did not “take down” my pants in front of the train! It was not a poorly timed sexual gesture to steel and rust. It was a simple, and years later hilarious, accident.
I didn’t say that in the moment because my moment was busy being exhilarating. When the train started to move I could barely take a breath. I could not believe what had just happened! I didn’t have to long to not believe before the train came to screeching halt. My pessimistic companion said “Oh great! Figures! Our train must be broken”, as we sat on a stretch that was barely two miles from where we had got on. It was a place with no second track, it didn’t seem like a scheduled stop.
He decided to go to sleep huffing and puffing. I stayed up and watched the engineers climb out of the train and make the trek across the freeway to a casino that was far enough away I almost could not make out the sign for all the lights. Whether they won big or not I will likely never know. Either way they came back a few hours later and we were on our way.
I spent the night smiling. I wrote love letter to the train workers all over the walls. When we went though a mysterious purple patch on the map called Chocolate Mountain, which in retrospect was likely a bomb range, the whole world smelled like olde fashioned donuts.
The train sang. The asshole was unconscious. The world smelled like the happiest memories from my mothers’ family. And as if it could not get better, the sun decided to rise again!