“Everything about the American dream reeks of urine and feces before becoming the floral bouquets of funeral parlors,” thought Erin. She opened her eyes and took a look around the train, looking at the other believers. The believers are the people that thought that if they just worked hard enough they might be able to make their millions and get out of the rat race. The sort of folks that played the lottery every day, or whose idea of a vacation was headed to the riverboats to gamble for a few hours every Saturday. Erin smirked, even the casinos had that strange piss and shit smell as the train cars.
Erin considered the smell and wondered if maybe it wasn’t actually urine and crap and body odor, but rather, the smell of desperation. It was always that way, from the slums of the inner city, to the rural dive bars in Satan’s Pocket. She remembered something from history class, about the old world slums of the last century, where immigrants and the poor lived amongst rivers of corpses and feces polluted drinking water. It was all desperation, not really a matter of smell.
The train car rattled along, headed south of the city. Erin felt the thrumming of the train as it coasted the steel rails of the tracks, hiccupping every so often over the welded seams. It felt like a lulling heartbeat, something almost womb-like. She took another breath and tried to clear her head. She didn’t want to be down beat about her prospects. She still felt young even though her youth was slipping away. She’d found three new gray hairs on her head the other day. Three! She couldn’t believe she wasn’t even thirty yet and she was already going gray. She didn’t feel like she was ready for that yet.
The train approached the next station and Erin’s head rolled forward as the train came to a stop. She looked at the opening doors, the passengers disembarking and boarding, their comings and goings, all looking for a place to sit or stand. A young black woman boarded the train with a small black girl in tow. The mother looked around the car for a place to sit and in typical fashion of the modern age, no one got up to offer her a seat. This incensed Erin, not only because she now decided that she had to give up her seat, but because she was so damn tired and how come all these other people didn’t realize how tired she was.
“Miss,” said Erin, “please, sit here.”“Oh, thank you so much,” said the young mother.
The young mother smiled and took Erin’s seat. She lifted the girl onto her lap. The little girl looked up at Erin and smiled. She was in a little pink and purple coat that was a size too big for her. It seemed to be swallowing her. Erin smiled back at the little girl.
“What’s your name,” asked the little girl.“My name is Erin. What’s yours?”
The little girl shifted shyly on her mother’s lap. Erin looked at the mother’s face. She looked as tired as Erin felt. She was probably younger than Erin by a number of years but time had taken a far bitterer toll. She offered a tired smile to Erin and encouraged her daughter to answer Erin.
“My name is Rain. I’m four. I like riding the train,” said the young girl.“That rhymes,” said Erin.
Rain looked up at Erin quizzically. Her little forehead was furrowed.
“Rhymes?”“Yes. Rain, your name, rhymes with train. You made a little poem. You’re a poet” said Erin.
Rain’s mouth opened wide with amazement and she turned on her mother’s lap with unbridled joy.
“Did you hear momma! I’m a poet,” said Rain.
Rain’s mother nodded that she did indeed hear.
“I’m Rain and I ride the train,” said Rain with a little more attitude. She smiled widely at Erin and bounced happily on her mother’s lap.
Erin smiled back. The train pulled into Erin’s station and she got ready to go. She looked back at Rain.
“It was nice to meet you Rain,” said Erin.“Nice to rhyme with you,” said Rain.
Erin laughed out loud. She hadn’t expected that response. Rain’s mother shifted Rain on her lap and nodded another Thank You toward Erin. Erin exited the train and looked back toward the window, toward Rain and her mother. Erin waved as she walked by, Rain waved back, still beaming from the discovery of her poetry.
Erin walked down the long train station staircase and at the bottom of the stairs she realized she could no longer smell all the piss and shit around her. It was something that smelled hopeful, like bread baking. Erin inhaled deeply. She didn’t feel so tired suddenly. She didn’t feel so worn out. She exited the train station and started the six block walk to her apartment and it didn’t bother her one bit.