the morning train
I am riding the train to work at 6:30am one year ago. The dull pressure in my brain impedes thought. The sun is sharp and slides in from the side for easy access, but it doesnt help. This soon after waking, thought is a physical action with moving parts and I just cant force it through all of this light and pain.
Two children stand across from me in the doorway of the train. There are plenty of seats, but they stand there, nose to nose, staring into each others eyes with a blank reptillian hunger as they lick and peck and kiss. Only their mouths display this affection, the rest of their bodies do not betray them. Both are perfectly ugly with tattered black clothes, grimy pigments and piercings and serious acne born of youth and the impurity of urban decay. They are perfect for each other and know it, intent on devouring one another to spite the world that will not. They havent blinked. It is the most hauntingly intense display that I have ever seen.
On the way to the train I saw a blind couple out for their morning walk. They strolled arm in arm as the man led with his cane, the womans resting gently in the crook of her arm. It is a cliché that I have never seen before or since.
I glance around the car and come to rest on a woman reading the Bible. Straight through, for who knows how many times, at 6:30 in the morning on the train to work. She is dressed in the cheap and tasteless but deliberate and professional manner that makes me certain she is a poorly paid receptionist. I wonder what kind of person reads the Bible straight through on the morning train. Who is so fearful and broken and weak and sad that they need it for strength at every available moment. It occurs to me that for a true atheist who believes in nothing before or after or outside, a human baby must be a horrifying and monstrous creature, willfully clawing its way up out of the void, propelled by nothing to nothing. A self-propogating, single-minded and voracious gaping maw without soul or purpose.
In a moment of clarity I decide to quit my job, which has been making me miserable.
I have heard it explianed that a ghost is a resonance, an echo of pain. Somebody trapped in a thought or an emotion. Apparently I have been a ghost for years. In college I stumbled upon an anthropological text that detailed burial rituals in different parts of the world. In certain regions of Greece where burial ground is scarce and firewood nonexistant, they have developed a system where the dead are buried and mourned normally. Then after seven years where the body has decayed, friends and family dig up the deceased, carefully wash the bones, and wrap them in a tidy bundle with the rest of the family in a local crypt. It is a perfect release, perfect closure, perfect exorcism of ghosts. I can think of nothing more relieving than to hold the bones in my hand and know what death truly means, that it is over and they are gone.
It has been almost long enough to go home without pain. I still think of returning for a time and washing the dirt from its bones. Maybe next summer.
before my twenty-fifth birthday I returned to the place of my birth,
which I hadnt known since the age of ten months. Its bones were
already cleaned and bundled, I just had to visit.
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