Free Ride

My heart pounded every time the car shuddered. Darkness ahead, safety behind, I started this adventure, now I had to finish it.How did I end up doing something so epic? A ride so dangerous, yet so appealing? Ever since I heard the first idea of such a ride, the first story, I pushed it aside. Brushed the whole concept away as a stupid phase, a ridiculous and risky endeavor.

I knew I had to experience the trip one day. I convinced myself to hop a train, just once.

I hear about it day after day. Every time a train whistles in the distance, my friend would smile like clockwork. He convinced my friend and I. Two girls, one boy, going on a voyage. A senseless, frightening, unsafe yet mesmerizing journey.

We got all decked out. Dark pants, comfy black sweatshirts, winter hats and sensible shoes. I tried not to wig myself out. When it comes to something risky, I always somehow back away, crawl into my comfort zone.

This was not my comfort zone. As we walked down the busy street, we heard the familiar sound. Our train. If we didn’t hurry, the train would roll away, leaving us behind. We ran and soon we saw the massive machine’s lights shine upon us. Hiding in the bushes, we waited.

When getting onto a train, you have to wait for the first four cars to go by, these four cars are occupied by the train workers. If they saw us, this excursion would be cut short. As soon as our veteran train hopper signaled, we ran towards the moving train.

I couldn’t do this. “Go, go, go” rung in my ears, but as I always did, I psyched myself out. What if I couldn’t get on right and hurt myself? I wasn’t scared of being caught, or being unfastened on a moving object, only the beginning.

I grabbed the railing of a car, my feet running along side it as if I was on autopilot. I hoisted myself up onto the bottom rung, a wave of relief coming over me. Now for the easy part. I safely secured myself on the grainer, and waited for instruction. Now was the time to hide. As we went through intersections and train yards we might be seen, so finding a dark place and staying as low as possible was our goal.

I laid down, scooting on dirt, and possibly rusty metal. I set my head back and closed my eyes. This was finally it. The train sailed over land that I couldn’t see from my spot. All I wanted was to watch, to experience what was so amazing about this life of freedom on the rails. I looked over the side a few times, uncomfortable and scared by the shuddering train. I watched the moon above me peek through the clouds, and hoped maybe it was a sign of luck for us travelers.

“I almost want to find a better car,” the voice of my male friend shot out through the dark, through the noise.

All I could muster to say was “Hell no.” I was fine in my spot, even if I was cramped. I could smell the oil, the grease of the train as I tried to manage a comfortable position. I brushed against bottles and wrappers, a sign that others had once laid here, once hid such as I was that very moment.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, we came out of hiding. No more busy intersections, and little to no chance of getting caught. I climbed over an unknown contraption and sat next to my friends. We pulled open a bag of snacks, and feasted. I lit a cigarette in the darkness, and inhaled what felt like the best cigarette of my life.

We yelled; we smiled; we waved to the world. Wind whipped through my hair, and for one slight moment I smelt the freshest air that had ever graced my nose. I felt alive, no worries, no fears. I might have been shivering, but the train was shaking so much that I couldn’t feel the chill.

I could see the world, but they couldn’t see me. Not only could I see it, I could feel it. I have been on a train before though it did not compare to this. When you are trapped inside, sitting in your comfortable seat, trying to avoid the weird kid sitting next to you staring, you don’t see what’s really out there. You may glance at it, think it is pretty, but you are in your little safe box. The only worry you have is missing your stop, or train delay.

Near the end of the journey, I began to tense up. Getting on the train was tough, getting off it seemed impossible.

“It’s coming up, get ready.”

Here we go, end of the line. If I do this, it will be done, one fear finally overcome.

I slid around the car, hanging on for dear life. As I stepped down slowly, I looked down. Bad idea. Again the voice inside my head convinced my body I couldn’t do this. At the last rung, I put my feet out on solid ground. I ran again on the side, this time my arms up to high.

Finally I let go, perfect landing. I didn’t fall, the only pain I could feel was a slight tension in my arm. My female friend fell, and the veteran gracefully hopped off and back on with no troubles. No major injuries, a smooth, free, liberating experience. As we trekked back to where a warm car of friends would greet us and transport us back to our comfy rooms, we looked down at our hands. They were covered in dirt from the rungs in which we had held on to. Pants, shirt, all covered in dirt.

A sign of our journey, a sign of freedom. A life changing ride.

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