Today my memory failed me. Well, time and contracts technically failed me. But a long time ago, a wide eyed, yet very sleepy kid once traveled these roads. Full of wonder, and no doubt, for once in his life, being a sense of wonder for his father. I returned to the scene of a crime, long since cleaned and painted over. Evidence long gone.
My life is in turmoil. Complete, house in the sky, spinning and pitching on the head of the twister out of control. The jackasses I work for are asking us to to do the impossible. Make Swiss watches out of nothing. We have been told that our station is closing, and now the rumor of two more companies has been tossed into the mix. We have not been given anything but a by this date, date. No idea where we will end up. No shift, engine, position information. Yet, we have been carved in stone tasked with making a life decision based on incomplete, and in most cases wildly comflicting information. You could not have worse mis-management if you specifically ordered it out of a catalog. Yet, that is what I have to deal with.
So, this morning, I steel myself up with a handful of motrin, and drive into the blackness that is a 40 something year old memory. Trying to find landmarks where they are not any. I visit, in no specific order the stations on the far end of the string, each a Fort Sedgwick in its own way. Outposts at the end of the frontier. The tip of the spear.
I shake hands, tell the same old stories, hear the same old gripes and know that the passage of any amount of time, will never change some things. I make my courtesies and leave, no closer to the truth I seek, than when I started.
I see the shadows of those childhood memories. Ribbons of rusted steel that now run to nowhere. Most long since torn up and hauled away. But a skeletial few remain, to remind me that they were once the object of my night of wonder and fulfillment. I look. Hoping that they would lead to what I would be sure of to be, the long closed Roundhouse. The place where my father and his friend brought me one sleepless night. A midnight move. The train crew called in from the comfort of their own lives. And once tag along kid, curled up, sleeping in the seat.
The crew climbed up on the engine, as it coughed to life. Its cold hearted diesels warming up, and belching their smoke. We went somewhere in the dark. I could not tell you where it was. The light of the engine making its own trail in the darkess that was the middle of the night. The night I should have been curled up in my bed. Not that night. I sat straight up on the bench. Wide awake. Taking in the sounds and smells of that cold night. The being in the middle of the unknown, riding in the seat where my dad made his living. He was the Conductor. This was his train.
Sometime in the darkness I missed it. Or it might have been one day at work, while I was at home, that the decision was made. I do not know. But, when the voice called me to the controls and asked me if I wanted to drive the train, there was nothing I could say but yes. I know that there was hands behind me, just out of my line of sight, reading to take over, if mine slipped. If I touched a switch by accident. My wide eyes saw nothing of this. I saw the ribbons of steel leading away in the darkness. The light of the engine making its own trail into that darkness. And the dull throb of the smoking diesel, as it made easy the task it had before it.
I was the Engineer of this train. My Dad, the Conductor. Our friend, the watchman, who looked over me, and made sure that I made the best of things. This went of, for what seemed like forever. In reality it could not have been more than a mile or two, before the adult hands resumed their places on the controls, and I resumed my place on the bench. But, it had already been done. I had lived the life of my father, if only for a fleeting moment. We shared knowing smiles over this, for the rest of my childhood. I never knew if he thought I had just had forgotten this. Maybe thinking that it was a dream I once had. I can't remember if we ever talked about it, past my childhood.
He has been gone for some time. He and our friend. The trains have long since been removed. The tracks, for the most part town up and hauled away. The roundhouse, is just a distant memory. But today, I saw it all again. If for nothing further than the dim memories of childhood, that came back. Not to haunt me. But to remind me, that all things eventually run in circles, if we have the patience to wait long enough.