Amtrak Is For Lovers
In high school I was an overachiever in most regards. I took risks, but they always had to do with passports and word choice, never with romance. Not until five days after I turned 18. I boarded the train in San Diego’s Solana Beach station and was headed back to my sleepy beach town. I was searching for a seat by myself on a busy train; I was out of luck. That’s when a cute stranger asked if I would like to sit with him. He was tan. He was tall and wearing flip-flops, jeans, a t-shirt and a flannel. Sporting a smile as wide as a child’s, he was attractive, but approachable. I said yes.
His name was Erik, and although we started by reading our respective books I soon learned he was a native Hawaiian, 23, and moving up to Humboldt County to grow medical marijuana. (Yeah, he was that cool). So not my type: too rebellious, too experienced, too everything– but gradually I became more intrigued. Maybe it was the remainder of his Jack Daniels bottle that we finished, maybe it was those eager blue-brown eyes that grabbed mine and held them as we talked or maybe it was because he had led a life that had a plotline fitting of a Cormac McCarthy cowboy adventure novel. His life story included an evil step-mother, bounty hunters, a Mexican prison-like boarding school for troubled kids and escaping back to the states with a Cayotaje and several Mexican families.
For a while I listened wondering if these stories were true, but the writer in me ultimately decided that I didn’t care. This was the most interesting thing that happened to me in months. I was wondering if it had the potential to get even more interesting. As I took another sip of whisky I secretly hoped he would kiss me.
It finally happened when the old grumpy train attendant had told us to be quiet, and we leaned in to whisper to one another. Unlike other kisses, there was no cheesy buildup. He was a man and simply went for it. Before I knew it his strong hands were up my shirt, on top of my jeans, and flirting with the waistband. We both knew what we wanted; it was only a question of where. The train got stuck somewhere in Los Angeles, and he looked at me, asked me again if I was 18, and gestured to the bathroom in the next car. He was luscious and he knew what he was doing. It was rough. It was wrong. It was exactly what I needed. The three-hour delay had produced a sensational performance by yours truly, featuring Erik the Rebel-man.
When we returned to our seats he held my hand. He asked me questions and actually listened to me. We shared our lives for that brief moment in time. The chemistry, the conversation, those eight hours, they were all electric. Because he listened, he was radically different from the high school boys that didn’t really think about my thoughts, feelings, and definitely not my pleasure.
When we finally arrived at my stop, he asked for my number, and I said no. He walked me to the exit and kissed me goodbye, our hands melting apart as I rounded the corner, stepped off the train and into my parents’ car. I thought about the seriousness in which I had been told to approach adulthood and the homework I had planned on doing on that train ride. Laughing, I was glad I had put my homework aside for the liberation of knowing I would probably never see him again and that no one I knew would ever meet him. He was an experience that was solely my own, and no one even had to know. I always thought being an adult meant you had to sacrifice spontaneity for responsibility. Yet as an eighteen-year-old woman I felt simultaneously more liberated and mature than I had in a long time. Despite all of the talk about adulthood and the real world, growing up was looking to be a much more fun than anyone had ever told me.