As I approached the loading station for the people of the city, traveling down the highway of life, I pause.A pause like time holding its breath and seeing my complete future flash before me like the Pyrimad Song. As familiar and yet foreign it all seemed to me, that movie, real before my eyes, like that of who’s past flashes before their eyes in life threatening situations, caused me to jump over the intersection of the fork between the road and grab the train’s lower rails right at the last second, but half of me had not made it across yet.
As I latched on to that rail over the intersection, I realized that I was on forbidden territory. Not being on the train or the dirt path next to it, but being in between. As taboo as interracial dating. My presence alone accenting even more strikingly the difference in which exists between castes.
I spend a day resting in a partial bed on the train hearing the passengers talk incessantly about the filth and degeneracy of those on the dirt path. I guess they didn’t realize that part of me was still very much there. Whilst others would sip their espressos and counter those while typing on their Macbooks peering through the window at the dirt walkers as if they were at a zoo or monitoring lab rats and refute: ” Can’t you see! These creatures just need more ramps for them to travel onto our platform, then we can all ride!” I guess they didn’t see the identical physical similarities between themselves and those on the dirt path.
Caught up in distraction, I seem to slip some and fracture both of my major bones on my knees. The pain is excruciating, but as my face grimaces the train riders look at me strange: “Why does your face look like that? Has your internet stopped working? Gosh I hate when that happens.”
I turn to look for help from those on the dirt path and they all seem to view me as if I was a child when the pain pierces my eyes – slowly forming into soft tears.
Indeed it seemed that only the teenagers and younger held such expressions. All of the adults had stern, solemn faces on as if they were there nightwatch men for their own souls.
“Don’t be a bitch.” One shouted while tossing back a whole bottle of whisky as if it were water.
Others held carrots up to the teenagers in the form of medicine attached to a string on a stick, promising that if they just grabbed it then all their problems would be solved.
Further over on the dirt path communities had been built like large castles with each person attaching themselves to another and another like bricks on a wall, I tried to attach but couldn’t rearrange myself to fit into the pattern properly. As most, if not all, had primarily been taught how to way back when they were first children.
Finally in a place made of dirt itself, a group of people said “you can rest your legs in this dirt pile we have made if you please until you feel strong enough to recover.”
“How do they survive like this?” I wondered. It appeared that many of the people on the trains were arguing amongst themselves about how they needed more money, to where they didn’t notice the occasional change that fell from their pockets and stumbled out the door. (I even saw some who, late at night when the passengers were asleep, sneak out and hand small bags to those on the dirt pile beds, that they had conned from the passengers during the day.)
With the coins alone we were able to purchase 40 loaves of bed from the dirt merchants.
“Well I am going to free my hands so I can more comfortably eat your food and rest on your beds that I am getting used to.” I said. (Anyways it was by far better than constantly scraping myself on the intersection)
“You have your hands on the rail!?!?” They exclaimed almost victoriously. “No, you mustn’t let go. Don’t worry, people don’t steal from us in the dirt piles. Even the dirt walkers look down on us. Your legs will be safe here until you heal.”
“But my arms are burning with tiredness and exhaustion, and stretching beyond my reach for such a long time!” I pleaded. “Moreover they don’t feed me there. They assume that I have wealth like they do and therefore don’t offer me food. Only the occasional banquet that happens to be in my car allows me an occasional piece of meat. But I can’t eat too much or they look at me awkwardly. Needless to say this lack of nutrition makes it even harder to maintain a strong grip.”
“You’ve eaten meat!?!?” One of them yelled, seeming to have heard almost nothing else I had said in my plea. “We have never been able to more than just smell meat! And when an occasional train window is open, and one sees us delighting in its smell, they quickly call the guards on us and slam the window shut. As if they see us as creatures or something silly like that.” He laughed. I smiled with him, too afraid to tell him that they do.
“You don’t laugh too often do you, youngster?” He asked, picking up more on my demeanor.
“No.” I replied. “I am not able to find much reason to throughout each day.” I calmly responded. And how could I? Each person having a group to share the joy of sharing a one-sided story with.
The community of bricks rejoicing in their design. The teenagers chasing carrots, rejoicing together at how good it will taste when they get it. (Though I saw some adults chasing the carrots as well) the carrot holders themselves high fiving each and laughing at the Folly chasing their stick. The dirt pilers playfully throwing dirt at one another, with an innocence of babes. Half of the train laughing at how embarrassing the lives of the dirt walkers are. The other half laughing at all the funny sounding names they made up and things on their laptops that I couldn’t see because the screens weren’t facing in my direction. You even had some of the dirt walkers who prostituted their own bodies like the human trafficked who rejoiced in the possibility that one day they could afford a ticket or someone might find them attractive enough to pull onto the train.
Who should I laugh and rejoice with? I wondered to myself? And how long can a man have his shoulders tugged before the arm dislocates from it?
The man was looking at me awkward, it seemed I had got caught up in my thoughts and hadn’t figured out a response to give.
“Well just remember this son, many of us would kill to be in your situation. If not for your own pleasure, then at least maybe you can explain to them our situation so they can assist us. I see so many vacant seats on those train carts.” He explained. I nodded showing that I understood where he was coming from, not sure if I should tell him that many of them have already defined the dirt path walkers themselves, and that they weren’t interested in hearing other perspectives. Especially not from the people themselves. Some because they already knew the truth. Others because they didn’t want to. The truth that we are all the same, all the same just in different situations. And for better or for worse it felt like I could see them all.
He caught me gazing off in thought again so this time he looked me dead in my eyes, suddenly expressionless in face, and cut off my ceaseless reflection saying:
“And if not for us, then because once you let go it will be very hard to grab back on again. Many have tried, thinking it’d be easy and most have failed. Left to fall and stumble back onto this dirt path and find their place in one of these lives, whoever would take them in.”
It was at that point that I realized that I wasn’t the first to be trapped halfway on the train and half on the dirt path.
“And believe me.” He said. “You don’t wanna be stuck here.”