Do you know the way to San Jose? Do you take the A Train? This trip leaves a bitter taste, but do drink it down. It’s good for you to take your draft… isn’t it?
Stepping Off That Last Train
By A. M. Trakke
My Champaign-Urbana to Centralia by train ride never left Illinois aboard the City of New Orleans. Two hundred instead of two thousand miles of swaying passenger-car, late November to visit home for the first time in three months, feeling years older, filthy and disgraced.
My first failure in life was destroying one of my childhood dreams. My solemn spirit as lifeless as Lincoln’s body mourningfully returning to Springfield. A Viet Nam body bag seemed closer than downstate in my stoned fears from being registered for the draft as my student exemption evaporated in failing grades.
The night before had been a drunken full bottle plus of Mad Dog 20/20 suicide attempt. The 9am alarm to catch the train home clanged awake my first hangover. Painting the dirty dorm toilet with clasped face, a whispered phone call for a taxi and bent over barfing on the train tracks followed.
Good morning Amerika why do hate me. I’m your native son? I choked on Steve Goodman’s paraphrased words while wiping vomit from my sour mouth. The tracks appeared and disappeared as certainly as my future success and ever marrying my first love, not ready for sex, girl friend back home. My roommate had four different girls to fuck during his holiday; while I was left my palmed fist and nightmares of bloody body bags.
I met, Rhonda, that day during the train ride home. She was a wild girl that Lisa hated from summer musical camp. I hated being a virgin rather than being a real man, Rhonda would tease, but never please. Lisa never smiled or loved me again.
I stepped down off the train looking as grave as moldy haze and worming clouds hanging low in the wet, bare trees. My draft board of Christian soldiers, who had marched off to war, had denied my request for conscientious objector status. Being too poor to escape to Canada, rolled reefer and opiated hash in a pipe had become as stale and real as the cheap, sweet wine carried in brown paper sacks.
The summer heat of new freedoms had become fall chilled collegiate failures at claiming my own life’s purposes . What would my Nixon hating, upper-middle class, detective and judge mother rule about my schism with my family’s small town, liberal, hypocritical morality? Would she be more Germanic stoic, pissed or accuser?
My Mom chose all three with , “You’re doing drugs aren’t you? I knew you weren’t ready when we dropped you off in August. You will explain yourself to your father and me later.”
“I’ve never done drugs mom. I’m just hangover, sick, homesick and struggling with a couple of courses.”, I lied, with my coat smelling more of marijuana than vomit. I didn’t fool her umbilical cord sense. The twenty mile ride home was ghostly silent. I had been delivered homeward as a dishonest, straw-less scarecrow betraying my mother’s past trusting belief in me. My childhood innocence died from stepping off that last train.