In the Home-bound Train

Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!

Young people in latest fashion loiter the narrow streets, chatting, socializing. A couple of kids on skateboards here and there and an occasional cyclist now and then fool the mind into thinking that this is a small busy town in the outskirts of Paris perhaps. Middle age couples stroll by hand in hand and yet older couples, judging from the way they are dressed, hurry along en route to somewhere important. Sitting next to the window of the restaurant it’s hard to tell that we are two floors underground a busy train station. The imagery was all created with intention. This is Paris. Wrong. This is Musashikosugi, a station a couple of stops away from Tokyo Station.
Yesterday I boarded a clean and polished train from my suburb and embarked on an hour-long ride to meet an old friend at a posh restaurant newly opened. This station is exactly half way for the two of us. It had been 4 years since Hiroko packed house and moved away to where she is now. But it has been over 20 years for me since I visited this station. I have good memories of Musashikosugi. Memories of Lulu and Rocio and Monica and Elena and the gang of Nikeijins, second-generation people with Japanese roots, visiting their parents’ homeland for the first time and like me, hoping to learn the language afresh. We were all new to this country back then and enrolling in Japanese Lessons here was what brought us into each other’s lives at this particular station. The station was unpretentious and rather quaint and inviting then and we roamed its corners after lessons so as to prolong our time together.
But now, the place has been bulldozed and in place of its quaintness vulgar high-rise buildings and underground cities have been constructed. There’s no stopping this trend. It’s all hip and good. No matter who we are and how much we know of this station, we relish the novelty and bask in the exaggerated reality of the area at the expense of the quaintness that gave the station its character before.
So, I went to Musashikosugi to meet an old friend for an early dinner. We got lost in our chatter trying to summarize four years into a few hours. It was really nice seeing her and hearing about all the exciting things that have transpired in her life. I also updated her about things going on in my life.
But while we chatted there was a big accident at precisely that train station. It stopped normal train traffic for hours. But since life was dream-like under ground, we were totally unfazed. Not until we were ready to say our goodbyes and head our separate ways, did that reality become part of ours as well. Infuriated for the delays, thinking only of myself, and how this inconvenience was going to steal me of my sleep, I joined in the commotion and tried to find an alternative commute back to my normal life. All to no avail. But in the process of letting go to the moment, I inadvertently remembered something that I had read online a couple of years before. I will share it with you. There is a lot of insight to it and it does a better job at expressing my thoughts today when I consider how close I came to being a victim myself in that accident. I could have been just another one of the passengers pulled out of the wreckage and you wouldn’t have me to tell you this story today. I am glad I’m still here but as of today, I am living my life worthy of several others whose lives have been cut short by that terrible accident.
                     “The Train of Life
       Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.
As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends,children, and even the love of our life.  Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats!
This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all the passengers…requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way – love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty — we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly, thank God for the journey!
Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!”
On my return to my home, I had to make several detours. It was very inconvenient.
I am now closer to home but not quite yet, I messaged my husband that evening.
I wrote those words as I sat inside the train which slowly became crowded with exhausted passengers also trying to make it back home after a full day at the office. It was way past my usual relax time at home. I had a marvelous time with my friend but by that time I just couldn’t wait to slip into my pajamas and to hit my pillows.
I confess that yesterday I didn’t take a book to read as it just wouldn’t fit into the little bag that I chose for my outing. So the next best thing for me to do was to text a few lines to friends in a conscious effort to not fall asleep and possibly miss my stop. The girl sitting next to me swayed from left to right and her head occasionally touched my left shoulder. She carried a book bag. She was a student so I figured that she must have had a full day of studying and socializing and more than me, couldn’t wait to hit her pillow at home.
We are all on our way home…
My experience yesterday made me look at those words from a different angle and once the train started moving smoothly once again, I wrote my last message for the night to my husband: Finally, I wrote, now we will all be able to get home before this night turns into tomorrow because when tomorrow comes it will already be yesterday’s news.
Next stop is the end of the line for me. See you soon honey.
  “Next stop is the end of the line — your hometown.  Throw off everything and get off.”— Noriko Tsubota

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