Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Middle of Somewhere

by Drew Martin

A couple of weeks ago I took a midday train home. The typical evening rush-hour professionals were absent. In their place were random suburban day trippers. Two elderly, platinum blondes boarded with a small boy, who I did not see before he was slipped into a high-backed three-seater.

The train left Hoboken, passed through a long, dark, old tunnel in a rocky hill and emerged into an overgrown slice of northern New Jersey.

The boy chirped in a tiny, high-pitched and concerned voice, "Are we in the middle of nowhere?"

He must have been only four or five years old and he sounded so sad and lost. The train continued on to the marshy and wide-open Meadowlands. He asked even more desperately, "Are we in the middle of nowhere?" He was so anxious that he might as well have been abandoned in the wilderness.

He repeated the troubled question, over and over. Each time, my heart sank. Finally, our train pulled into Rutherford, which has a town center and signs of life. The boy's voice did not change its tone but this time he asked with a glimmer of hope "Are we in the middle of somewhere?"

Illustration by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber