Outside the train’s window the yellow dust fills the air, turning all the light into a golden glow. As I watch the land pass by I take a deep breath and find that some tight place in me has released. Some tension in me has softened. Maybe in all this open space I finally have enough room to breathe. Maybe I’ve left my cares behind at the station, if only for a while. Or maybe I am just glad to get the hell out of Utah. Salt Lake City was not my place.
I’m sensitive to atmospheric changes. Every place has it’s own character and that soaks right into me. Salt Lake City gave me a strange sense of ennui. I felt a little off the whole time I was there. It’s hard to describe. The feeling came from small things, from a deserted plaza, a place designed for noise and movement that is silent and abandoned. Like a house that is too clean to really feel like home. I wandered through, waiting for my friend to get off work, and my footsteps echoed on the naked concrete walls and planter beds.
The feeling comes again as I sit on a packed train from Sandy to downtown. There are people in colors for a team I don’t know, families heading into town for a game. A guy sits in the seat across from me. From the corner of my eye I get an impression of torn jeans and dark tattoos. I glance at him and consider saying something, starting conversation in the hopes we might find some connection. I have this feeling, one I can’t quite explain, that the way we appear to one another puts us on opposite sides of something. Some divide of social circumstance. I wonder what he thinks of me and if it would change if he knew me. But he doesn’t know me and he gives off a palpable sense of hostility. He pulls a long folding knife from his jeans pocket, turning it over in his hands, opening, closing it. He doesn’t look at me but I have that odd sense that his attention is on me, even if his eyes are not. I stare out the window, arrange my face into a mask of boredom. Unconcerned. Whatever, the set of my shoulders proclaims. But I wonder what he means by it. I sit and wonder and he sits with his knife, folding, unfolding, folding again. When we get to my stop I stand, walk to the door. As I get off I glance back at him. He is still sitting, his eyes carefully trained downward. He snaps the knife shut and slips it into his pocket. I get off the train and it carries him away from me.
There are sharp edges hidden in this place and I’m glad that this train is putting miles between me and Salt Lake City. I stare out the window and there is nothing but golden light for as far as I can see. We cross the border into Wyoming and I think of what one of my favorite bloggers wrote in her new book. Every time she crosses a state line she throws her cares over her shoulder, leaving them at the border. There’s something to this, isn’t there? Going to a new place has a strange power, an ability to wipe the slate clean. So as we cross into Wyoming and then into Colorado, I feel I really have left my cares behind me. I am empty, wiped clean. Ready for a new beginning, where each day brings a new adventure.