a journey

You pack your suitcase.
You are going on a trip.
Inside you've carefully folded your best dress, your prettiest shoes, and some good books to read.
Your train is scheduled to leave any minute,
and you sit on a bench at the station, waiting to hear the whistle.

When it arrives, you proudly hand your precious luggage to the conductor
and board the narrow waiting room on wheels.
You've been planning this vacation for such a long time,
and now that you are here, you can hardly believe it is happening.

As you sink back in your plush seat, and close your eyes,
the trains wheels slowly begin to turn.
You feel yourself moving forward, just as you had imagined it.
After awhile, when you finally open your eyes, you blink....
and blink again.
You gasp.

Pressing up against the smudged window you gaze upon an unfamiliar landscape.
You do not recognize the countryside that whips past.

The passengers around you do not look alarmed,
so you lean back and try to relax.
You close your eyes again,
hoping the view will change.

But rechecking only adds to your bewilderment.
Now you not only see an unfamiliar landscape, but an entirely different season.
The weather was hot and muggy in the train station, when you left home...
you are shocked to now see mounds of snow covering the world that flashes past.

Without further hesitation you turn to the nearest occupied seat.
You must make sense of this,
Excuse me? you sharply ask a fellow traveler across the aisle,
Why does it look like winter outside?
The young man with whom you speak, looks at you with a vague, annoyed expression.
And responds with words in an unfamiliar language.
You shake your head and turn away.

Now your ears become acutely sensitive to the voices around the coach.
They are muffled but unmistakeably a language you do not recognize.
A staff person comes by with a tray of refreshments, and offers you a drink, but you
don't understand what she says to you.
But why? You are in Canada!

What is going on? Doesn't anyone speak english here?
Are you dreaming?
Your heart starts to race as you fear that you've somehow made a mistake,
and boarded the wrong train.
Finding your ticket you rise out of your seat and wave frantically at the conductor
to come to your aid.

When you ask him the question as to the trains destination,
the conductor forms a now familiar expression, one of hesitation and uncertainty.
He can't understand me, you realize.
And when he speaks, you are horrified to realize that you can't understand him either.

With one last ounce of determination, you again ask for help.
slower this time.
Pointing at the ticket stub and then towards the window,
Your fate seems to rest on the conductor understanding your predicament.
But his polite face becomes increasingly strained, and his answer is absolute gibberish to you.
His tone however, is unmistakably impatient and rude. That much is clear.

Pushing past the conductor, and weaving through the aisle you then
desperately try to find something (anything!) familiar about the train you boarded.
You notice that the passengers are wearing strange clothing.
You feel sick to your stomach, frightened, and very, very cold.
People look up at you with questioning stares.
Pulling themselves into their seats as if to avoid your touch.

Panic rises up in your throat. You can't breathe.
In a state of great agitation and anxiety you break down, and start to cry.
Your shoulders shake, and you are overcome
not caring if your distress is evident.

What is happening to me?
Where am I?
Why doesn't anyone understand me?
Why is everyone staring?
Am I going crazy?
You start to collapse and your knees give way.
You find yourself giving in to the loss of your strength,
and fall in the cramped aisle.

Someone moves toward you.
You recoil initially when a warm blanket is placed over your body.
But a comforting hand grasps your shaking hand.
Are they friend or foe?
The person brings comfort and looks kind.
Its her eyes. They seem safe.
You relax a bit.

It is then you notice something weighted hanging on your wrist, a bracelet.
It has an inscription, a word, but you can't read it.
You can figure out what it says.
Its a long word.
You wonder how the bracelet got there.
You don't like it, and try to take it off.
Unsuccessful, you sigh and surrender to your bodies fatigue.
More confusion. More frustration. Its all so tiring.

The blanket grounds you. It settles your anxiety a bit.
You don't want to move for fear of facing more of the unfamiliar.
The awful strangeness that has paralyzed you with fear.
As you feel yourself doze off, you remember your suitcase,
and promise yourself to ask for it,
when your strength has returned...
In the morning, or the evening,
or whenever you wake from this horrific, frightening nightmare.
This journey turned horribly different than you had imagined or planned.


Anonymous said...

WOW Christine,
That is beautifully written! Very powerful.
You should submit that...to where I don't know...hmmm Alzheimer Society newsletter? writing competition?

I sure hope I do not get that disease in old age...or any age.

ashleymarie said...

this reminded me so much of a story that was given to our family when Jay passed away. and as i read it here and realized you were talking about alzheimers, it made anxiety well up within me. when i worked at the care home, my heart hurt so much for the many ladies and men that had lost who they were, and especially for the ones who knew it was happening to them. haunting. makes me want to go there and make sure that this new world is filled with at least one friendly face.

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