This is a fiction piece written from my Detroit area writers group, exploring the work of building the M1 Rail through a man on the line.
Line by line. Rail by Rail. Hands down. Jacket on. Mid-day Fall, early Fall where the heat is striking just as much as my tool on the steel. Grounded. Complete. Next few feet.
They named it, but not what I named it. I call it Ole Detroit Line. Decades ago we had something like this. What happened? People. Properties. Automobile moving father and farther away.
One step back towards the core now. Downtown. One step back and forward. Back and forward in time.
Testing will begin soon. So we're almost there. Lot's of fuss over it. How will the cars share the road with the new light rail? How will people use it? Who? These aren't light questions. But I came just to build and build onwards.
Stations. Stops. Temporary rest. The skeleton is up, then filled. Advertisements next. Shallow faces of figures we may or may not want to be. Who cares? It looks good. Finished and polished and waiting for Detroiters now.
I am tired. The sun cools and chilly Fall comes in. I am tired. They wanted more and more hours. A project is never complete until it is.
Hands down now. Hands up. Rest. Move. To the city. The city of working class people, the city of poor, the city of billionaires rebuilding, the city of engines roaring and disappearing. On my line. On my time. No more.
Cumulus clouds on the horizon. Time in flight slows. I am watching out the window. I am watching the plain in space, blue space, clouds above and in the distance, puffy and thick, moving onwards in their own speed and direction.
Behind me a passenger interrupts my dreaming.
“It’s a magical place, just magical.”
But I am sleeping, half watching and half listening. The lake appears so flat and still as if an ice sheet of blue and grey below. The buildings on its horizon are shaded, small, and you see two sides, a top and a reflected bottom. Two sides to everything, looking from above or below.
I have no sense of location. No sense of what is passing when in flight.
“What do you mean magical?”
“It’s a special place. You see strange things happening there,” she said. The two women were directly behind me discussing a past visit. “Once I was driving and it was Thanksgiving day. I drove right through a double rainbow right on the road. It was so beautiful it almost brought me to tears.”
I feel sleep creeping in the slow haze, sleep like a clouds passing, puffy and closer now whispy at its ends, waking again to hear.
“Then another time I swear I saw this man. He was standing there in the rain. It was raining hard and he was perfectly dry.”
“My friend said to me - did you see that? I did. We both saw it. She asked if we should go back. I said to her, you know if we go back he won’t be there anymore.”
Strange things. Magical things. She is an attendant maybe, talking about the island she once lived on. It was Hawaii. Beautiful. Not like the crowded city of Chicago we were landing in soon. There no rainbow here but a heavy bodied grey mass, a sense of rain, a flight or two canceled, pending storms and their power to disrupt.
“It was tough living there. Couldn’t get along with the locals. Tough to make friends. They were alway skeptical of newcomers. Think we are always just passing through.”
California for days. Lots of tall palm trees on the boulevard to Stanford. Walking slowing in the heat. The leaves like fans, shadows of a hand on the ground, warm welcoming.
I like the way this college town is. I like the people I have met. I ventured to the city but it was large and confusing and I didn’t see much at all in the brief afternoon. I will go back. But there is something about smaller cities I like, the comfort, knowing a place aftering being there just a couple days. Big cities scare me, leave me in a haz.
Traveling along for days in California. Work brings me here, but creativity keeps me.
Alone I wonder who I really am to be. It’s an action: Being. It’s the woman along at the bar. Tasting. Not talking. Reading.
It is a process you see and when away from all who know me I am free but I am still. More quiet. Relaxed. Fine with not speaking for hours. Content with my words in my mind and page. The writer in me is social, craving the interaction and inspiration and also observant. Quiet. Enjoying the setting of ourselves alien.