Back in the day, before I was married, before the child, I used to sometimes take the train instead of the plane back from business trips. My favorite trip ever took me from St Paul-Minneapolis to Portland on the Empire Builder in the middle of winter, a trip that takes almost two days. Much of the journey took us through snow-covered prairie, through towns where traffic had come to a standstill, completely snowed in. Only the train kept persevering, day and night. Nights were clear. We had a full moon and many stars, and could not stop staring up at the sky from my little sleeper compartment berth.
I felt so safe, so isolated, so cocooned, so without any responsibility or worry, utterly, insanely happy as I was cradled to sleep by the rhythm of the train.
In the morning the sleeper car attendant would bring by the local paper of what little town we passed through. I’d also talk a little to other passengers in the dining car (meals were free with the ticket). One guy, a park ranger returning from a job interview, who was going back to Whitefish, Montana, asked me if I wanted to get off with him at his stop, and change my life and his in one instant. I said no, inevitably, but was charmed by the possibility of changing the course of my life so suddenly and dramatically. He left behind a long letter. I didn’t have the courage to read it.