Once again I am riding the train, and once again the train is delayed, but right now I don't mind, because when the train is still I can look out my window and count the grazing deer. It is the first week of September and it is going to be fall soon. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I went running, and the air smelled like smoke. On Wednesday, the sun came up on my third mile instead of my first. But right now it is summer, that last spin and hurl of it, and I am on a train. I am going, as always, to Michigan.
My grandmas live in Michigan. I am on my way to see them. One lives in a neat little condo on the north side of a very small town in which she was born and raised and will likely die in. She sleeps in silk pajamas, and the leather couch she's had since the divorce more than 30 years ago is always cool when I lay my cheek upon it. The other one lives in an old home on the edge of a swamp in a city that lives half full. The backyard is full of crabapples and broken dolls' heads and my great-grandmother's ashes lie under a sundial. It was on the side porch where this grandma poured me my first homemade lemonade. This grandmother drinks tea, slowly.
A few miles from the swamp lies a lake, and over that lake stands a bridge lacing together an American shore with a Canadian one. Twenty seven years ago this past July, my mom and dad rode across its length on a 1986 Yamaha Radian for their first date. The towns of my grandmas are approximately half an hour apart.
When I look out my window on the train, I see a cemetery and then a viaduct with graffiti that screams SATAN SAYS KILL THE POOR. When I look out a second time, I see a junkyard graveyard full of what I always think of as "Baptist busses," a thought vaguely related to a church camp I went to one elementary school summer. There are rows and rows of vehicles, pale blue with black lettering, that used to carry kids and now just sit on the earth and sigh.
I used to be very angry with somebody. Decades before I was born, she was unable to protect someone I love. I was furious with her in my late teen years, when I had hurts of my own. I thought I could be saved from these hurts by turning my unfocused anger upon someone other than myself. I do remember the first time I really forgave her, writing alone in my shoebox bedroom senior year of college, how good it felt and how utterly relieving. It seems all silly to tell you now, indulgent or somehow stereotypical--the small room, the dim light, my journal and my underage tears, but it was important. The next morning I woke up, remembered something stupid, and got mad all over again. Forgiveness isn't something I can just do once and be done. I have to do it again and again and again. It is infuriating, but each time I feel a little better, a little calmer, for a little longer. I guess forgiveness is a constant, if it is to be anything at all.
Inside the train, it's raining. The cars are freezer box cold, but the space in-between that links them is as humid as a greenhouse. It is here, on my way to the bathroom, where I feel drops hit my head. The window on the train door has fogged from the inside. Outside, everything is lush and wet.
When I sit back down, the conductor announces that the train is running 45 minutes late and counting. I need to face my editing work. I need to stand back up and go buy the shitty cafe car food and shitty cafe car coffee so I can sit back down and get paid to do something I theoretically wouldn't mind making a full time job, but when I look out my window at farmhouses and rain and cornfields bowing down under the weight of that rain, I remember running through a field. I was eleven, and playing outside with my grandfather and my brothers and my sister during a deep June storm. I remember now how good it felt for all of us to see each other muddy and panting while the corn lit green and the sky poured down. Later that evening, while the rest of the kids scurried into the car and moths wove overhead, my grandpa stood with my mother on a porch and told his daughter he loved her for the first time in my hearing. I know I have written about this memory before, but I will write about it now and forever until I die. He was a difficult man. We are all difficult, men and women alike, but trains still move, and motorcycles still ride across international bridges in blue collar towns. My birthday is coming up. I sure am glad to be going home.