tracksOTTAWA TO KAMLOOPS DAY ONE

Luckily I’m not superstitious. In the morning of the late May day I leave for Kamloops by train, I have an interview/photo shoot scheduled at the university and I carelessly lock myself out of my apartment. Knowing I’m leaving town later in the day, I’ve locked all accessible windows and I’ve given my spare key to the neighbours who won’t be home until after I’ve left. I have to call a locksmith, at a cost of $85, which delays my interview by a couple of hours.

Nevertheless, I’m on time for my express train from Ottawa to Toronto, with a Starbucks coffee in hand. I’ve arranged for a perfect connection time, arriving at the boarding gate for Train No. 1 to Vancouver 11 minutes before boarding time.

Ten p.m. on the dot, we creak and roll out of Union Station, picking up a bit of speed as we leave the city. A noisy, jogging rhythm sets the train car into a soothing motion on the rails, stretching out miles and miles ahead of us.

We won’t have Internet until 2:40 tomorrow afternoon when we get to Hornepayne. I’m used to accessible Wi-Fi, so I will have to carefully schedule my time to send work that is due to one editor or another.

A young man behind me has just returned from a tour of Italy — Milan and Rome — and is headed home to Hornepayne. A mid-aged Native woman with her left eye bandaged shut and tattoos on her forearms introduces herself to me — Raven — before settling in across the aisle for a “relaxing” trip to the coast. She almost missed the train, she says, as she had to help a friend in trouble.

Dark and silent but for the groans and squeaks and rumbling of the rails, and the blasting engine horn, which sounds like a fading fury, we hurtle northward from Toronto through the Canadian night.

Winnipeg stationThere are 13 souls on the forward car, directly behind the engine and baggage car – comfortably installed among the 60 or so seats. All single passengers. No couples. No children. Besides the young northern Ontarian just back from Italy and the now cheerfully snoring Ojibwe woman across the aisle, there are a couple of older sleepless women watching shows on their computers, other young men tapping away on their devices, all travelling alone.

Somehow, in this more than half empty coach, I feel I’m home, doing exactly what I should. Out of time, out of place, but home.

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