(Wreck of the Old '97, Thomas Hart Benton, 1943, Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN)
I tiptoe delicately into the cell.
Everyone is sleeping soundly.
This does not make me happy.
I want to sleep soundly too.
But do I get to?
Instead, I get to read.
Until 4:30 a.m. when I realize that my back is killing me.
I try desperately to find a comfortable position on the tray.
But nothing works.
I decide that I better get vertical for awhile.
Maybe standing will relieve some of the pain.
For the next several seconds, I become a frustrated contortionist.
Finally, I am on my feet.
I am facing the cell door.
My back is facing the sink.
I am not armed.
I am not particularly dangerous.
But I am in position.
If the warden decides to pop in unexpectedly with new plans for our train riding "comfort," I'll be ready to take him down in a nanosecond.
The train is shaking so violently that I lose my balance.
I attempt to recover my equilibrium by grabbing the edges of Bob's and Matt's trays.
But that's not gonna do it.
So I stand with my feet apart and brace my legs against the bottom beds to achieve more stability.
I am hanging on to those top trays with everything I've got.
Bob and Matt sleep and sleep and sleep.
I hate them.
Tara rustles her sheet for a few seconds.
Is she going to wake up and talk to me?
My hopes evaporate as she turns over and relaxes into a deep slumber.
Please someone - anyone - tell me when I am going to get some SLEEP???
I NEED TO SLEEP!!!
I am now within minutes of loosing what is left of my crumbling mind.
I decide that I hate everyone who has ever lived.
I hate everyone who is currently living.
And I hate everyone who is yet to live.
I hate people because they are stinky, dirty, and just plain nasty.
I hate them because they reproduce too fast.
I decide that I hate every form of transportation known to humankind - including feet.
I hate life because it's not fair.
I especially hate EUROPE!
This is all Europe's fault.
If Europe did not exist, I would not be standing on this creepy train suffering like a caged animal.
I may have mildly disliked it for a few seconds here or there.
But I have never, ever hated Europe.
I can't even imagine under what circumstances I WOULD hate Europe.
I think silently, "I am seriously scaring myself."
Then a new thought flies into my head:
I could just suck it up and deal.
But before I can dismiss that ridiculous idea, I hear these frightening sounds:
'What in the world?" I ask myself, "that terrible screeching noise sounds like 10 million fingernails clawing across 10 million chalkboards all at once."
The train comes to a complete halt.
I look at my watch.
The time is 4:50 a.m.
Silence settles over the train.
A deadly, quiet silence.
"Did we just run over a cow?" I ask myself.
"Or worse yet, an actual......... HUMAN BEING???"
"And even if we did run over something soft and crushable like a body, would we even realize it at the speed this train is going?"
My mind races back and forth as I desperately search for answers.
I glance at my companions.
Bob is snoring as usual.
Matt is sprawled out on his tray, sleeping like a bear in hibernation.
Tara is curled up into a comfy ball, oblivious to the world around her.
I am within two seconds of letting out the biggest scream of my life.