Truth or Dare

I took the dare. Always. No matter what the stakes or the consequences, I sucked it up and dared myself to walk. Anything to escape the truth.

It was quiet. No traffic or people or runaway thoughts. Only my footsteps, as I crossed, stopping every ten or twelve steps to wait for the approaching hum of steel on steel. I resisted the urge to remember all those promises I’d made to my mom.

Forward. It was chilly, I pulled my jacket tight across my chest. Somewhere, behind me in the black of the park, sat my old life, hiding in the darkness. While up ahead, in the distance, my future awaited me. The lonely hopelessness I was forced to endure.

The moon was tucked behind the clouds, an insulated shine falling to the glittering water a few hundred yards below my feet. I stopped again, to feel for vibrations.

Everything was still.

I rose, picking up my pace, my heart racing and my feet tingling. It was the only time my body felt anything, when I was too far to go back yet too far to outrun a chugging locomotive. The thump in my ears was powerful, yet not enough to smother the voice that kept creeping into my thoughts. The one that said it wouldn’t be all that bad if a train really did come. Right now.

A glance behind me. Then straight ahead. Down, the ties flashing beneath me, one…  three… five… rocks and bolts and all sorts of things that could trip me up. The dizzying glitter between the slats. The tears on my cheeks caused my wind or cold or something stirring inside of me. Still so far to go.

We had prepared for the cancer—as though you could do such a thing. We exhausted chemo, therapy and treatments, abandoned all hope and prayers. The cancer kept coming, refusing, chugging along the tracks, horn piercing, chasing her down. In the end, all we managed was a few precious moments together.

I’d promised her I’d be okay. A lie. I’d been lying to her face because I wasn’t okay. Not then, when she sat in her bed, gaunt and dying, not now, on my trestle, taking my nightly walk, daring the train to come barreling around the bend. To make things happen.

Truth or Dare. I would always take the dare. Because there is no truth left inside of me. Only fear. Only a broiling hot rage that was eating away at me like the cancer did my mother. And so I crossed the trestle, daring fate, daring something to happen.

I felt it in my feet. A faint pounding, a shake. I stopped, knelt, but nothing. Nothing but the buzz in my limbs. I blew steam to the sky, spat off the edge. Nothing was coming for me, not even death. And so I crossed the trestle, having won again.

But I’d be back tomorrow.


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