SETI at Home

Passing through hometown

Rains had stopped and a full moon floated above a cleansed horizon by the time his train rolled out through familiar outskirts. He desperately wanted to get off and visit his childhood home, maybe meet up with some of the kids he went to school with – he knew many still lived in the old neighborhood.
He had left with bitter words he forever wished he could take back. He didn’t remember who started it or why. But he remembered his parting words and how his mother had clasped her ears shut as tears streamed across her face through clenched eyes.
sunset-over-the small-lakeThe middle class district from his past crawled by as he sat with his cheek cradled against his palm and elbow nooked in the corner of a large glass window. Thinning clouds shimmered like silver sea-shells teasing the moon in a fleeting game of hide and seek. Rain had left puddles of water glimmering randomly across the landscape. Streetlights and passing cars flashed beams of brilliant light twinkling through somber shadows.
The train passed by the last few houses within the city limits, their gleaming wet roofs complaining about being left behind. Tiny windows glowing warm yellow in the distance beckoned those returning home to a simple tables laden with food and love.
rangoli-in-steel-plates-for-mobilityIt carried him to his once happy childhood. To returning home after playing the evening away to his waiting mother’s open arms. To dumping his crumbling bike on their small lawn despite certain gripe from his father later. Even tonight, he knew, his parents would be quietly sitting down for their evening meal and maybe thinking of him.
He was homesick; he was sorry – and ashamed. He couldn’t remember why but he knew it was his fault. As he spoke those cruel words long ago, part of him knew even then he was wrong. He was young and angry and foolish. He remembered the time when this world belonged to him, for him forever. Now he knew better, a man on the run, almost.
For all his bravado and his baseless attitude, he wanted to jump out. But the train slowly picked up speed as it left the city and fading in, the darkened fields of swaying wheat replaced passing vestiges of humanity. He could have punched in the emergency brakes and run back with his single bag before the conductor had a chance to fully stop this rolling steel mammoth. He could easily run home, once his home, from here. In less than ten minutes he could be knocking on his parents door. He could fix this for everyone, especially for them – maybe think things through enough to fix his own life for good.
He sat alone in this coupe. He got up. His one hand reached for his bag and the other inched towards the long red bar marked “Emergency brakes” near the top. He grabbed the red bar then his hand halted. His body stiffened, his face hardened. His hand didn’t pull the lever. He stood frozen, lost in amorphous dark thoughts annulling his heart.
Finally, his chest deflated in a miserable sigh and he sat back down hard. He could feel the train moving fast, leaving behind what could have been. He turned his gaze to barely visible lights as far away somewhere his old home, his childhood and his memories flickered one last time and faded to black.

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