Because it was Christmas Day, I got two seats to myself on the train to St. Louis. I brought my laptop and a bunch of reading materials so, of course, I just stared out of the window the entire trip. The combined effect of the train's motion and cushioned silence with the awareness of entire towns flying past at a hundred miles an hour had a tranquilizing effect on me.
Hours passed. Everything about the train finally imposed a superficial simplicity onto the outer world in a way that only high speed trains can, I suppose. So, actual people and houses were now actors living in mocked up sets that looked like real houses in towns that were mere plastic replicas. Far away, pretend towns that twinkled a little with Christmas lights even as early as seven in the morning.
Problems? People in this town didn't have any problems. Not anymore. None that could be detected behind such air-tight windows as found on this Amtrak train. Distance? Speed? Such necessitated the making of snap judgements. Details? There were no details. Only a blur where the world used to be. By the time I arrived in St. Louis, I, too, wanted a hundred-mile-an-hour life as seen from the safe distance of a commuter train. By then I'd have traded lives with anyone. And by 'lives' I mean houses.
Take, for example, the blue house with white shutters and brick chimney that I saw somewhere between Joliet and St. Louis. It was neat as a pin. A perfect little house with pine trees all around it. I noticed a tiny potted plant set on what had to be the kitchen window sill. There, a white lace curtain was pushed to one side.
Steam, presumably from the dryer, came reassuringly from a vent on the side of the house. All the while smoke from the fireplace came from the chimney. I sensed that this house was spotlessly clean on the inside, too. Maybe even a bit under-furnished as only houses of normal, non-hoarding, non-neurotic people can be.
And, though the house had to be at least a hundred years old, all the trim was new or at least newly painted. I sensed a strong 'no shoes worn inside' vibe coming from this house. I could practically see all the machine washable slippers lined up neatly by the front door. It was just a *hunch that I had.
*A fairly strong hunch, however.
As well, I was certain that every single piece of paper that came into this house was filed not only immediately, but properly in a nice, unassuming rolling file cabinet that was situated next to the desk in the office. Right next to the shredder. Because it makes sense to have file cabinets next to shredders in home offices. And, in this house, everything made sense.
Which explains why there are no stacks of paper anywhere. Not even little stacks of receipts or coupons near phones or mixed up with the mail, as I've seen happen. There is no clutter. Not even a junk drawer. In fact, in this house there are still a few drawers and cabinets that have nothing stored in them. These are earmarked, as they say, for 'future growth'. Because the people that live in this house think about things like the future.
My favorite room? The little sewing room off of the laundry room. It doubles as a space for ironing clothes but there's a fold-away bed in there for guests, too. There's a great big gray and white plaid blanket and lots of gray and white pillows. In the closet are shelves filled with sewing and ironing supplies. There's this one bottle of liquid that makes the steam in the iron smell nice. You just pour into the iron instead of water. It's called 'Air' but it smells more like 'Sunshine' to me.