Betrayed Restlessness II

(MacArthur Bridge over East St. Louis)

The train lumbers slowly over the Mississippi, quiet and hypnotic: chunk, chunk...chunk, chunk.... I can hardly breathe.

I'm swallowed into the belly of American folklore; I am a lyric in a forgotten blues tune. Stretched out in every direction, incredible expanses of land. I see the Arch: magnificent, bizarre, something mistakenly left on the riverbank by bulbous-headed aliens. Strange how a few city blocks can manifest worlds richer than some vast stretches of geography, I think. I don't know where the idea comes from.

The train picks up speed as it reaches the Illinois side. I hadn't anticipated that the bridge -- which has no guardrail or walkway, nor any visible way down to street level -- would extend for miles into the distance, well above the shadowy buildings. I imagine myself trapped on this coal car indefinitely, arriving in an Indiana small town by morning. If I'm lucky.

Click here for larger image.
Click here for larger image.

Where am I? Who am I? Where am I from? It's been so long since I've been from anywhere. Ghosts are everywhere now: my own personal confederacy of wicked antagonisms. What difference does it make what happens next? My grandfather was a milkman. I don't remember my grandfather. Maybe I never had one.

The train jerks unexpectedly to a stop. There's a small grated platform protruding from the bridge, just below my car. This is my chance! I am Papillon! The train lurches forward again. Jump, Papillon! But then what? Fly, stupid!

 
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