How long, baby, how long
has that evening train been gone?
how, how long
baby, how long?
I've written this post over in my head countless times I guess, not quiet figuring out the angle from which to start. I never meant for it's subject matter to become a continuing topic. Certainly not for this long. It was just a couple of funny stories to begin with and we got a big laugh out of that. Both here and at work. Then a couple of odd coincidences that made me think, 'hhmm, that's weird.' Then many more odd coincidences, even to the point that other people have begun to say, 'hhmm, that's weird.' Now, he has become something of a comforting presence, a distant sentinel of sorts that watches over me or simply bids me to smile on days that I may not normally be inclined to. Now, before you all think I've lost my mind, let me explain a little.
If you have read this blog for any time at all, you know I am referring to the Switchman. And if that topic offends you, I won't be hurt if you leave. When I left the railroad job I was certain I would never see him again. In fact, I told him so. That was why I wanted to say good-bye. I can still hear his words just as clear today as when he said 'well, you never know. We might run into each other somewhere'. My efforts to get away from him started even before I left the job really. I tried to get sent out of state. Tried to alter my route, hours, schedule, whatever over the course of being sent to several different jobs in an effort to avoid him. And it would work for a bit sometimes. Then one day I'd look around and there he would be, a slight smile and wave and just as quick, he'd be gone. I have thought, at times, that I should not even write about the subject as many people would not believe that there is not more to it. But I have been truthful about the whole thing. Last week, when I saw him in my town, was the first time since leaving the job that I have actually stood in front of him.
One thing that strikes me as funny is that, there have been a couple of men I've met over the years that I have tried to run across after a job was over. Couldn't find them anywhere. I cannot ever remember running into someone, even a fraction as much, that I don't even work around anymore. Oh, after 10-12 years I see some of them again, like Dale.
Funny thing too, is that the times that he pops up is when I can use a friendly face or helping hand. Days when I was discouraged about something or feeling lonely. After the fiasco with Dale, and the ensuing feelings, I have run into the Switchman more than ever. Even to the point where I have needed physical help he has, in a way, been there. When I was still at the railroad the Switchman gave me a rather extensive first-aid kit. Yes, I know that's a weird gift and the guys ragged me about it but it was what he could get his hands on and he always seemed concerned about me traveling so much by myself at the odd hours that we do. So, twice I have injured myself here at the house and that first aid kit saved the day. The first time I had just moved into the house and had not yet bought such supplies and then just lately I cut my hand open to the point I thought I might need a couple of stitches but the more complete materials let me bandage that up just fine. There is a couple of other instances with other things he gave me but we'll just let it go with that.
When I was able to speak to him last week I actually had presence of mind enough to tell him about some of this. We laughed and he agreed that it was all kinda odd but he almost seemed slightly hurt that I would try to avoid him. I told him of my frustration and that it was hurtful to see him sometimes. He is a very calm man and he looked down at me, or maybe through me, with those deep, blue eyes, and softly said, 'it shouldn't be'. I had no response. He was right and I was slightly ashamed for making some of it into such a big deal. He asked me to please, not alter my routines, just go about my business and if we saw each other, we would just wave and smile. I quietly agreed. Later, I thought back to some of the times on the job when I would get pissed off about something and be throwing a little rant. One of the guys would say, 'go get the Switchman and let him talk to her; he can calm her down.' And he still can.
So, since our little agreement I believe we have crossed paths every day either going to or coming from work. When we were on the job it became a little ritual that when they started moving the first trains of the morning, he would always hang on the side of the locomotive, wave to me and say 'good morning'. So now, even after a year and a half of leaving that job, life would have it for whatever reason, that we are still able to wave and say 'good morning'.
*old classic but favorite version by Clapton