Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a certain tendency which I don’t find in many other people. I’m always most content while I’m in transit between two places. Almost to the point that I dread ever reaching my destination. When I was young I would live for long car rides, and, like the effects of any gateway drug worth its salt, this caused me to later move on to buses and trains and air planes and anything else I could get my hands on. In Niger I spent half an hour on a donkey cart just going from one end of town to the other, and I loved every second of it.
There’s something beautiful about trains that no other form of transportation possesses. Standing on deserted train tracks, you can look in either direction and see your way almost to infinity. The simple, unalterable path of the train reflects the unalterable progression of time, or , at least, time as I perceive it. I tell myself there are no symbols in real life, but a train seems too close an analogue to living to ignore.
Sometimes while in motion I feel very strongly that I’m falling sideways. That my movement is not my own choice, but the result of an external force acting upon me. Making my third trip between Denver and Phoenix across all that flat, shadowless land, the heights from which I was falling were almost nauseating. Perhaps that’s why I find it comforting. It reminds me that I’ll never be as big as the forces of physics acting on me. It’s like being hugged by math.
In a practical sense, you could say that I find transportation to be comforting because it means that wherever I’m going, I still have a chance to prove myself. Until I’ve arrived at my destination, I have a blank slate to work with and all the potential in the world to be or do something great. The longer the trip, the more the potential. However, as soon as I arrive at whatever destination I’m headed to, any action I take immediately rules out others that I could have taken, and already my potential is diminished. I’m happy being in transit because it is the time when I am the least defined.
And in a far less practical sense, I can explain my love of transporting myself between locations with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. As I understand it, the more you know about a particle’s velocity, the less you know about its location. Therefore, if I know and I can feel exactly how fast I am moving between points, maybe eventually I’ll have no location at all. I’ll be nowhere and everywhere all at once. Something about this idea greatly appeals to me. I know its probably scientifically unsound to extrapolate the laws of physics like that, but it’s a beautiful thought, anyway, so I’ll keep it.
If anything, my biggest problem with the life I have now is that there’s not enough transit time. I’m stuck in one city, and none of my daily commutes allow me enough time to really think. That’s the draw of transportation after all. It’s an enclosed system where you’re allowed to sit quietly for long periods of time while simultaneously being able to see and participate in the world around you. The unspoken rules of society allow for you to keep to yourself unless you desire otherwise, so you can just sit and think quietly while images of landscapes bombard you like warm, heavy rain. Entire stories blur past the window and continue without you, but at least you were a part of them for a split second. You were a part of something.
This lack of transit time is reflected in my current state of mind. Until I receive word that I will have the opportunity to move to France next fall, I will be stuck still, my direction chosen but no momentum to take me there, a broken train car on an abandoned track looking toward infinity, hoping to one day see the end. So far, I haven’t been able to think of a proper contingency plan if I never hear from the French program, which, I guess, would mean that my train car would be left on that abandoned plain between two lives and allowed to rust and rot. Every few years some wild animal might come to steal the stuffing from the seat cushions. The wheels would sag on their axles and the window panes would fall out after their wooden frames finally rot to nothing. The unrelenting sun would chip the aquamarine lacquer on the outside of the hull, while inside the patterned carpets fade to a uniform grey. And all this time its singular passenger would sit quietly and stare out the window, suitcase by her side and gloved hands folded in her lap, waiting for the day the landscapes will once again fall past her, or she past them.