Sometimes she sits by her window at night and waits. Sometimes it’s hours, sometimes only minutes. She might even wait until sunrise. But she sits until she hears the grumbling night train go by, miles away from her sleeping suburb neighborhood. She memorizes the far off howling of its whistle and the eerie reassurance it gives her; that it’s going somewhere lonely, that it will see crispy prairie grass and mountains that yawn under the moon all in one night. All while she sits by her finger-print collaged window and dreams of the day she’ll be a night train. A day she’ll escape and fly across a train track, a day when she’ll be able to dream in silvery horns. She wants to run steady and fast, with the weight of something important trailing behind her. She wants to watch the miles of empty prairie under a hungry night sky, and not wait for anything ever again, except for the sunrise.
Tonight it was raining. Big, crocodile tear raindrops. She had changed a lot since those first few weeks of waiting for the night train, and that little girl who dreamed so big was starting to decay inside. Maybe she looked put together on the outside, with her lip-glossed smile and stick-thin body. But every night she unfolded, and her night train soul soaked it’s way to the outside. The sky was moaning. She was stuck under a frozen tomb of grey and chaos. She wanted cold toes and blue lips, something to take her mind off the pain. She watched the rain on her window. Each droplet was a dribbling leak of her heart. Her entire soul was dripping down the window, and she couldn’t stop it. After hours of waiting for the night train, it was all she could muster up to whimper a tiny noise, a plea for something. It was then that someone picked her up and carried her to another time and place.
She got in her car and drove. She drove until she reached the shore, then she started swimming until she reached another shore, and then she started driving a stranger’s car on the wrong side of the road. Then when she was out of gas, she climbed a tree and finally allowed herself to think of the truth that she’d been hiding from. She thought of the boy, the anxiety of never knowing for sure, the aching of the rest of the world, all the drowning monsters inside her own head. She will spent nights and days in the tree somewhere across the sea. Finally she’ll look up and see there is someone else in the tree too. Someone so bright she can feel the warmth of the light rays on her pale face.
I’m sorry, She says. I didn’t know this was your tree.
It’s your tree too, He says. I’ve enjoyed having you here with me.
And she says, But I’m a nobody. I hurl disappointment at people like a storm cloud hurls rain at the ground. Unpredictable and inconvenient, she says. Just like me.
No my dear. He says. I wanted you to climb this tree today. Isn’t it a lovely day?
She looks around. Sure, she says. But you avoided my question, just like everyone else. Maybe you’re no different. Maybe you judge and are disappointed at me too, just like them. I’m everyone’s inconvenience, an unpredictable inconvenience.
Yes, He says. Yes you are. But I created you this way.
Why would you do that? She says. Thanks to your great creation, I’m unloved. An annoyance no one wants. I don’t have anything to offer. I’ll never be appreciated by them.
I created you to be like me, He says. I promise you, my princess, that I was the biggest inconvenience to people when I walked on earth. I’m still an inconvenience now. I am by far the world’s most unpredictable inconvenience, but just like a rare tear of joy, there’s beauty in it.
Can my inconvenient nature become beautiful too? She says. Can I really find a place in this scary world, or will I forever roam across an endless prairie, hoping and screaming like a night train?
If I told you that now, wouldn’t you miss your night train soul? He says. You may settle down one day. Or you may get swallowed by stars like a night train. But no matter what, I’ve given you a restless soul for a reason. Your “inconvenience” is beauty. A startling whistle that brings excitement to desolate and abandoned places. And what a colorful train you are, as you will help people find life through you, and you will be tattooed with broken stories that splash into new ones with the colors of the rainbow.
She starts to cry. Words swirl around in her mind, but they come out as sparkling tears on her cheeks.
I promise I will keep building exciting and thrilling tracks for you to run on, He says. Don’t slow down my love. Your restlessness is a beauty the world needs.
She wakes up to sunshine spilling all over her tear-stained face and messy hair. She hears a bird chirp for the first time. She wonders why she isn’t in a tree. How did she get back home? Something is different though, and she knows it. She encountered her first true love in a tree halfway around the world, and she will never be the same.
The thought of night trains thrill me. The fact that they exist leads me to believe that we all need an escape, and we all yearn for mystery and new opportunities to sweep us away and carry us somewhere far. Night trains are the ultimate escape route. They tell us that it’s not about who we really are, it’s only about who we want to be. Whenever I hear one, (usually late on hot summer nights, while I’m sprawled out under the fan in the dark with my window wide open) I imagine myself hopping that train and embracing the electric tingling in my heart when I’m excited and terrified at the same time. Of course, I don’t actually feel that way lying in my same ol’ same ol’ room, but I pretend to transport myself to a place beside the tracks, a place where no one can find me and I can be anyone I want to be when I jump on the train. A place where I can allow the chilly wind to wrestle with my hair. A place where I can smear the world in front of me with my hand like paint, and see the colors zoom past me in a stunning and fascinating way. I would ball my hands into my sweatshirt sleeves and feel the freedom of not knowing. I have a feeling most girls can relate to this, and through our pain, God wants to meet us in simple places like trees if we let him. He understands how big we dream and how restless our hearts are.
Once we reach our night-train destination, we can become who we want. It can be a beautiful thing to escape from ourselves and transform into someone of our dreams for a little while, someone who doesn’t mess up and doesn’t ever hurt. We become in our minds someone who always knows what to say, is adventurous and makes society breathe. This version of ourselves becomes our universe for a little while, and we laugh as our old self is stuck back in her bedroom floor under a fan. But we can’t stay there forever. Soon enough another night train will chug by and bring us back to who we really are. It won’t be a dazzling antique train that sings on the track. It’ll be an ugly freight train that whines and stutters. But somehow, I’m starting to be okay with that train. If that train can bring me home, then it is the most wonderful of all. If it’s the train that takes my made-up heart and delivers it back inside my real one, and wrings out all the fake and make believe from it, then I am thankful for my ugly freight train.
I want to be real. I don’t want to live in a city of my imagination and travel on the night train all the time to be there. Someday I do want to take the midnight train and go anywhere (heh heh). But when I do, I don’t want to be running away from my problems. I want to be a genuine soul, a scared yet passionate girl who embraces the uncertainty that God places in her life. I want to be a girl that trusts so much in the Holy Spirit inside of her that the night train leads her on journeys to change the world; and not act as an escape route to lead her away from her pain. I believe that Jesus isn’t just some grand conductor of our night trains, but he is a simple passenger who meets us on them and sits with us as we watch the world fly by. He just wants to accompany us on our dream-filled adventures and give us comfort and a home along the way. He will never fail to show up when we’re desperate. He has this crazy ability to be alive in any place, even places where we would be ashamed if he saw us there.
I do have a night train soul. I desperately want to run fast across train tracks and get eaten by hungry stars in an endless sky. My future is the most uncertain part about my life, and I think about it all the time. But I trust that someday I will hop on my “night train” and be the fearless girl that God is making me. But for now, I’ll get up off my bedroom floor and go look at the stars, because no matter how far I go, they’ll always be there. And the angels will peep down on me through them, and I’ll see the stars twinkle as they flutter by, because stars are holes that penetrate the brightness of heaven. But most of all, I will trust. I will be a messy star and embrace the soul that I’ve been given in this point of my life. And we can all do the same, as we let our chaos explode into a quiet and brilliant star. Our night trains will carry us closer to heaven as we disappear into the endless beauty of God. And our hearts will blaze with restless splendor.