When I got to the platform there were people waiting, but not a crowd. And nobody seemed to be in a hurry. Nobody was impatiently checking their watches or phones, or leaning out over the tracks to see if a train was coming. Everyone was just standing, leaning, or sitting, listening to music or reading. Some were just living inside their own thoughts, whatever those could be. We were all waiting for a train that for once everybody had confidence would be there exactly when it needed to be.
The train pulled up slowly, headlights barely cutting through the fog. The doors slid open silently and I noticed that the train was empty. I don’t know what station it could have come from, but there was not a soul on board.
Everyone on the platform could get on calmly. There was no pushing or jostling, everyone could sit or stand wherever they chose. And even once the platform was empty my car wasn’t full.
I chose a seat by the window so I could see the scenery pass me by. The cars and streets, trees and people. A gray sky. Clouds threatening rain but not seriously yet.
I went to take my book out of my bag and realized I had forgotten it. I was carrying nothing. It was startling at first – the lack of weight. I usually have at least a few pounds on my shoulders. But then it was freeing. I rolled my neck around, marveling at the lack of tension, the freedom of the muscles to stretch and move. I wondered how long it had been since I had carried nothing with me.
I did feel lost without a book, though. I never go anywhere without a book.
Looking around I saw everyone was empty-handed. The iPods and newspapers were gone, the ear buds had disappeared. People looked up as if noticing where they were for the first time.
A man about my age sat next to me. He asked me where I was going and I realized I didn’t know.
“Where are you going?” I asked him.
“Wherever this train wants to take me,” he answered. He considered me for a moment, and then asked, “Are you scared?”
“Of what?” I replied.
“Wherever we’re going,” he said.
I realized I wasn’t and told him so.
“I’m not either,” he said, smiling. He touched my shoulder for a moment and then left to talk with someone else.
I looked out the window again at the things I was leaving and sighed. He noticed and called from across the train car, “You can’t take any of it with you, you know. It stays here.”
“I know,” I said.
“Will you miss it?” he asked.
“I will,” I replied, “But I’ve never felt so light. I never realized how much I was carrying.”
He smiled at me again.