For today’s retroactive blog post, I thought I’d put up an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, The Giving Thief. This story is set in the 90’s and I am hopping a train for almost the first time. Certainly the first time out of town, and into the foreign beyond. Enjoy.
I walked up to the wall of steel sliding by in front of me. The moon lit the cars. Grain cars. I watched as they rolled past trying to decide whether to jump on the front or the back of a car. I finally settled on the back, but by now the train was going fast. I watched for just a second more, knowing that each second meant added speed, then started running.
I ran as the car passed me, looking back over my shoulder for the steel ladder on the back. I grabbed it as it came by. It gave me a yank and suddenly I was taking huge flying steps along the tracks, my bag bouncing on my back. The feeling was exhilarating and terrifying, but as the speed increased the terror began to win out. With one fervent leap I swung up and planted a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. I was on.
The train car had been made to haul grain and was sealed off, but at the end was a little platform with a nook just big enough for a person to squat in. I made myself comfortable for what might be a long ride.
The train headed out through the industrial asshole of the city. It was one of those neighborhoods where every toxic form of production had taken up root at one point or another. No need to go slow through this part of town. Dinging rail crossings and two-truck whiskey bars sped by me.
As the city thinned I began to realize I wasn’t dressed for the journey. It had been a balmy night in town, but as the wind rose, I knew I was going to freeze if I didn’t get some layers on. This was a daunting thought as I was now on a moving freight train with only a small platform underneath me.
I fished around in my bag until I found my rubber poncho. I spread it down on the small bit of platform below me. Then I rummaged around until I found my long-johns. I tucked them carefully behind me so that I wouldn’t loose them over the edge. Then came the part that I was dreading. I would have to strip. I was going to freeze.
Feeling a shiver race over my body, I went for it. I buckled my bag to a nearby ladder so I couldn’t lose it. Then I took my boots off and placed them carefully in the bag. I knew that loosing even one of them would be misery. Next I peeled off my shirt. I was wearing a black wife-beater underneath and so this layer wasn’t bad. But then came the pants. I wore no underwear.
The platform offered little space to wriggle out sitting down. But likewise it didn’t leave enough headroom to stand. I was going to have to hang on the ladder. I grabbed my black leather gloves and put them on. I swung around to the outside of the ladder and carefully took off my pants, one leg at a time. The wind was exhilarating. My cock swung cold and free. I pulled my pants the rest of the way off carefully, knowing well the stakes should I loose them. I grabbed them and jammed them in the bag.
Then, as I was about to reach for my long johns and find some warmth, the train car was washed in bright light. I looked up and saw an immense complex of fully lit pipes and tanks appearing on either side of the tracks. It was a fuel refinery and it was massive. The track bisected it, and the train was heading straight through the center.
The refinery shot up into the sky on both sides of me. Crazy networks of pipes and tanks bent and wrapped each other in a science fiction of fluid engineering. Everything was lit by huge floodlights positioned all over the structures. At the top in multiple locations, some ten or fifteen stories high, were three huge torches, shooting massive fireballs into the night. It made me feel warm all over, even though I was freezing. Everything about it reeked of power and precision, and although I knew that this thing was full of poisons and evils beyond imagination, all I felt was awe. I clung on to the ladder with my leather gloves, wife-beater tee, willie blowing in the wind, as the kilotons of steel I clung to glided beneath the kilotons of power above.
The train was going fast now. If I fell off I would die. But my gloved hand had a firm grasp on the steel ladder and nothing in the world could break that. I was strong enough to do this, and I felt it. It was a freedom I was discovering, beyond the “proper” way of living one’s life. I wasn’t in school reciting the history of another empire. I wasn’t in bed dreading the buzz of the soon to be snoozed alarm. I was hanging naked on the side of a freight train speeding through the industrial regions of a vast civilization. I was alien. I was electric. I was alive. And for the first time in my life, alone on a freight train in the night, I felt sexy.
Posted: June 3rd, 2010 under Retroactive.