Mike and I clutched hands and ran towards the train station. Steam rose from the engine with a hiss as it readied itself for departure. We needed to make this one! Although the train schedule was fairly regular, once this one left, we'd have to wait several weeks for another one to come by, and the journey from here to our Destination was a long one. I didn't want to keep putting these travel plans on hold. It was time to go! We scurried up the wooden steps of the platform, our shoes click-clacking as we ran. Mike clutched the metal railing on the side of the train and pulled himself up. Then, he reached out his hand to me, swinging me inside. Whew! We made it! We found our way through the car to our seats and settled ourselves in for the long ride. The scenery rushed by in a blur, but it was still beautiful. As I sat there, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like when we got to our Destination! So many of my friends had already arrived and sent me postcards and letters of their happy lives. Smiling, laughing, having a great time! I couldn't wait! It was going to be the best adventure ever!
After a while, the attendant came by to punch our ticket. Mike and I handed them over. The attendant took a quick scan of the barcode. It beeped happily. He smiled and handed our tickets back to us. "Enjoy your trip!" he said to us. As the train chugged along, Mike and I chatted excitedly about the first thing we would do when we arrived at The Destination. We made plans about all the sights we would see and the fun we would have. We had heard from our friends that sometimes, this place wasn't always rainbows and sunshine like in the commercials. Sometimes, it rained pretty hard. So hard, that the howling of the wind and the rumbling of the thunder was enough to keep you up all night long. We didn't mind. We knew we could handle a few sleepless nights. It would be worth it just to be there with everyone else, where we could all finally hang out together! Over the course of our trip, the attendant came by to recheck our ticket a few times. Each time, it beeped, he smiled, and the train continued to speed along.
The longer I sat in my seat, the more uncomfortable I became. My ankles started to swell from sitting down so long, my back started to ache, and I was getting really tired. Mike, being the wonderful and supportive husband that he is, rubbed my shoulders and brought me snacks. "We're almost there, Beans," he said, reassuringly. And we were! From the window of the train, I could see signs for our Destination, the number of miles next to the name getting smaller and smaller with each sign we passed. Soon! We'll be there soon! I could hardly contain my excitement. Even Mike, who was usually so cool, calm, and collected, was showing signs of joyous anticipation.
The train car door slid open, and the attendant made his way to us again. One last swipe before we arrive, I thought! We pulled out our tickets and handed them over. The attendant waved his scanner over our tickets. No beep. Nothing. That's weird. It should work. "Swipe it again," I said. "I'm sure it's just a glitch in your machine." One more time. No beep. The attendant's smile vanished. "I'm sorry," he muttered, "You're going to have to exit the train." What? Exit the train? That can't be. We bought tickets for the whole trip! The ticket worked fine until now! Why, all of a sudden, when we were so close, do we have to get off? Everyone is waiting for us! I'm sure they have already made signs for our arrival! "WELCOME!" lovingly and painstakingly painted for us. What are we going to do?
The attendant walked over to the side of the car and pulled a lever. With that, the train came to a sudden and screeching halt. Mike and I were thrown forward with such force we slammed into the seats in front of us and then fell to the floor. "I'm sorry" the attendant said again. "You're going to have to get off. Now." I'd hit my head against the seat pretty hard, and a soft, warm trickle of blood fell from my forehead. I was dizzy and confused. Mike looked pretty banged up too, but he stood up, brushed himself off, and then carefully and tenderly, helped me stand. I looked over at the attendant with pleading eyes, hoping he'd change his mind. He shook his head and pointed to the door.
We had no choice. Our ticket didn't beep. We weren't allowed to continue to The Destination without a ticket. We hobbled to the door of the train and gingerly eased ourselves down the steps and onto the platform. As soon as our feet hit the ground, the train doors zipped closed without apologies, and the train took off like a flash. Without us. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere. We thought we were about to embark upon the biggest adventure of our lives, and now here we were. Stranded, alone, far from home, and even farther from where we wanted to be.
The trains only travel in one direction - to The Destination. In order to continue our journey, we would have to start from the train station where we boarded - miles and miles and miles away. The only way to get to where we were going was to WALK all the way back home and then hope with all our might that our timing would be right enough to catch another train.
When the gravity of our situation hit me, I began to sob. "We were so close!", I moaned. "Why can't we just keep going? I just want to be there! I've already waited so long! I don't want to start over!"
Mike held me close and rubbed my back. With shimmering eyes, he said to me "I know, baby. I know. I don't want to start over either. But we have to. And we can do it. We can."
"But what if we can't catch the train again?"
"We will. We caught it the first time." He is soft and reassuring.
"But what if they kick us off again? What if our ticket stops working?"
"We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it, baby. I love you and we can do this. We'll get there, just little later than we thought"
We called all of our friends and told them what had happened - that we weren't going to make it this time. That we were going to have to walk home and try to catch the train another time. We cried. They cried with us. We were all so excited. To fall from such great heights to such a depth of sadness is like a punch in the gut. I fell to my knees and screamed. I clutched my chest. I wanted to go so badly - and I was almost there. Almost there! I didn't want to think about having to start again, not when I had been so close!
For quite a while, I sat at that train station and cried. Several trains whizzed past the station, but none of them stopped. They were someone else's train, not mine. Taking someone else to The Destination, but not me. Mike stood beside me while I moaned on the ground. Keeping watch over my grief. After what seemed like a hundred and one years, I realized I couldn't stay at this train station forever. If I ever wanted to get to the destination, I had to find my way back home. All. the. way. back. home. So, I stood up, and I brushed the dirt and dust from my coat. I picked up my suitcase, which felt so much heavier than it did before, and I took Mike's hand in mine. After one final glance into the horizon, where the sun shone bright over The Destination, we turned our backs.
And we began to walk.