This post was rescued from the now-defunct “Books and Storytelling of Lucy K.R.” Patreon page. Originally posted in January 2021, it is archived here in its original form.
Prologue From the Future Which is Now:
(Technically the future which was 2021, but you know what I meant)
For this week’s From the Archives Friday, my Patrons have decided on a ‘real-life Lucy story’ which is an option that I put in the poll, even though I had no idea when the last time I wrote about myself was.
But it turns out there was a whole period of my life that I had forgotten about completely! For about a year, back in 2010, I wrote occasional articles for the Classic City Courier! It was a little indie web newspaper, run by a group of incredibly kind and encouraging people.
At that time in my life I had a hard time keeping up with commitments, and eventually phased out of participating in the paper. But I do have a few of the articles I wrote for them in my records! Unfortunately not any of my bad movie reviews. I think I did bad movie reviews? I may have hallucinated writing those…
But for today, please enjoy the first of a set of 3 articles I wrote about travelling with my little sibling to DC by train so that they could catch a flight to Russia.
I’ve corrected some pronouns, but other than that it’s just as it was 10 years ago. I hope you all enjoy “From Gainesville to Moscow” part one!
From Gainesville to Moscow
Part OneLucy KR, 2010
My little sibling, who I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is something of a genius. They are brilliant at school, a fabulous actor, a talented writer, and a superb composer. They have a plan to one day go to Mars, which they’ve kept alive since middle school. They’re now enrolled at Georgia Tech, striving to reach that goal with a great deal of work and sacrifice. They’ve joined a Fraternity known as Psi U, where the only thing more fun than hanging out with their Brothers is hanging out with their Brothers while they set something on fire or build model planes.
At the suggestion of one of their new friends, they signed up for a Russian class at Tech taught by Natalia Myshkin, known as Natasha to her students. Apparently, in Russian, Natasha is a nickname for Natalia. I don’t understand it either, but when your sibling is a genius, you trust what they tell you. They loved that Russian class– the language and the teacher. When they were shown the brochure for a Study Abroad program that would let them go to Russia to continue their studies, they jumped at the chance.
As my parents looked around for how to handle the trip, we alighted upon an exciting plan of action. I had been feeling rather stagnant of late— like I’d fallen into a routine I would never break, and needed to try something new. I’d been planning to take a trip on the Amtrak train line that came through Atlanta, but had never chosen a date. After a quick look at plane ticket prices, it was discovered that it would be far far cheaper for my sibling to fly from Washington D.C., the very place I had been hoping to visit on the Amtrak line.
It took little to no discussion to finalize plans. I would travel to D.C. with my little sibling, see them off on their plane, and spend a little time running around the city. We both bought tickets for an Amtrak train ride to Washington D.C.’s Union Station. The trip would be twelve hours long, only an hour shorter than my sibling’s plane ride from DC to Russia. But we were both eager to give it a try. After all, trains are an under-used, and exciting way to travel, and neither of us had ever been on anything longer than a subway trip a couple of stops long. Amtrak would be a new, and exciting experience.
The preparations for the trip went as trip preparations usually do— A distant sort of acknowledgment that you’ll be going somewhere at some point for the month leading up to the trip, followed by a couple days of telling all your friends all about the grand time you’re going to have, finally ending the day before that trip. That day is the end of the honeymoon, when you suddenly realize that you have logistics to work out, and you haven’t prepared for anything yet.
My father often appears immune to this because he is a master of making lists. He makes lists of what we need, and what we’ll eat each night when we’re camping, and all sorts of lovely little things. However, when it comes right down to it, even he falls victim to day-before fever.
For this trip, my sibling and I didn’t catch day-before fever. We caught day-of fever, as did my whole family. Including my mother, who already had a bronchitis-induced fever, and was even less happy than the rest of us. We would have done the usual day-before packing and preparing frenzy, but since our train left at nine o’ clock at night, even the night before leaving seemed decades ahead of our actual departure.
The afternoon started off benign enough. I say afternoon, because my sibling and I had both stayed up too late. I woke the earliest of us by hauling myself out of bed at eleven o’clock in the morning. They followed closer to twelve thirty. We chuckled and chatted, and finished up the latest installment of our live-action fanfiction re-enactments. [Future Note(Not this future–the other future): Yes, this was a thing we did for fun. Found a terrible fanfiction and made a film version as a joke. My sibling SJ played all the parts, and I did the filming, directing, and editing. They were extremely bad and I love them.]
Our cable had been knocked out the night before, in a rather vicious storm, so we had no internet. The cable-man came to fix it at almost the same time our father came home early from work. The first thing he did was ask us whether we had received the email he had sent. The answer, of course, was no.
He said he was worried, because though we had planned to check my little sibling’s baggage at the station, it turned out the station we were going to was unstaffed, and could not check baggage. However, both of us could take two carry-on bags. Only one problem— the bag had to be a certain dimension to fit onto the train with us. My sibling’s bag for Russia was not exorbitant, but it was also not exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of ‘carry on.’
We couldn’t get to the internet to find the exact measurements for another half-hour. When we finally did, it turned out their bag was an inch too long. The stress was starting to build. I started to worry next about whether I’d be able to sit next to my sibling on the train, then about whether we’d be able to find our way to the station at all. The stress built and built in a bizarre and endless string of small fears, and frustrations, as one thing after another was misplaced, or misunderstood. By the end of it, my sibling was lying down on the couch with the lights off to try and block out the world, and I had to lock myself in the bathroom for a quick and rather bashful cry.
But of course, as always happens, it was fine. We split my sibling’s bag up into two smaller ones. Since I had only planned on taking one bag to Washington, I would take the second bag as my other carry on. By the time dinner came around, we had all settled down.
Spaghetti with veggie-patty crumbles may not sound like a delicacy, but after the stressful day, the carbohydrate overload was well and truly appreciated. Tensions had eased, and our normal family conversation followed, full of all the obscure references and strange subjects it usually carries. There’s nothing like having an entire family conversation consisting of nothing but Portal 2 references.
Only an hour or so after dinner, one last scroll through the checklist, and one last moment of panic in the form of an AWOL plane ticket later, we headed to Gainesville. Gainesville is a city that most would not associate with adventure, but for my sibling and I, it has always been synonymous with it. Both of my siblings and I went to an artistic summer camp for teens which was held at the Brenau campus every year. It was a thrilling, two-week camp that always left us in tears at the thought of returning to our normal lives. Going back to the town immediately triggered the part of my mind that says something new is going to happen.
We got unloaded and ready, standing in the train depot station with four other groups; a mother and father with their three children, an elderly couple, a lone, tattooed man, and a trio of women. There were brief discussions about where everyone was going, and where they came from, but mainly each group kept to themselves. Everyone was going somewhere new— somewhere I’d never been— from New Jersey to Hershey Pennsylvania. Out of all of us, only the elderly woman had sprung for a sleeper car. The rest of us would be riding in style in the coach class.
The train was delayed by half an hour, but all the worry in my mind vanished when I saw that beautiful engine screaming smoothly down the tracks. In the dark, it looked like nothing more than a point of light in the black for the longest time, though the light grew bigger and larger the longer I watched. My father snapped a picture of the two of us on his new blackberry that he’s just beginning to get used to.
When the train rushed past, the wind hit like it was coming off a stormy ocean. There was an inexplicable rush that comes from seeing something you love. I have always fancied trains [Future Note(Not this–eh, you get it): I beg your pardon past me, you have what!?] though I’ve never ridden one. Watching that train pass, seeing the faces in the window and knowing that soon I would be one of them was thrilling for me.
The train ground to a halt, and a woman in a crisp uniform jumped off a flight of steps, beckoning to us and the other waiting passengers. Another train worker jumped down behind her, setting a yellow step-stool at the bottom of the flight of steps. It was startlingly high off the ground.
We waved goodbye to our parents, grinning and calling out a farewell, then turned to the first step in our adventure. The family of five went before us, and the final worry in my chest eased as the conductor asked how many they had in their party, and gave them seats with each other. My sibling and I went next, and got seats next to each other, 57 and 58. Our seats were, sadly, not at a window, but they were at the very front of the car. We watched as the doors between cars opened and closed, showing the ever-shifting vestibule where they were joined.
Soon after we arrived, a woman came by to punch and collect our tickets. She directed us to the snack car (a whole car for snacks and sodas!) and the restrooms. Unlike an airplane, on a train you can get up and wander as much as you like.
Once we had figured out how to work the leg rests on our seats, and realized we didn’t know how to put them down again, my sibling and I headed up to the snack car. There was a long line for it, full of people fighting happily to keep their balance as the train swayed and bucked gently on the tracks.
It is difficult to describe exactly how it felt to ride the train. It wasn’t like the boat rides I’ve been on, or the bus trips. It was different even than the subway rides I’d taken— a slower, steadier trip, with wobbles and turns, but no real speed. I didn’t even find myself needing to hang on too tightly. It felt like the whole trip was the first movement of The Scream Machine at Six Flags. A little unsteady, and jerky, but almost relaxing. Though of course, on the Amtrak train no chain drags you a hundred feet into the air and flings you down a hill.
What was truly remarkable, though, was the attitude of those around us. Everyone was fighting to stay steady and not fall on anyone else, but as they did so, everyone was smiling about it. Strangers chatted easily and amiably with one another as we rode. We speculated on where we currently were, and whether we’d get up to the front of the line before the train passed the Georgia-South Carolina border.
We did, of course, and retreated back to our seats. My sibling devoured their cinnamon bun with great delight, sipping a Sierra mist, whilst I indulged myself in some coffee and bite-sized Chips Ahoy. The train car had gone quiet, save for the soft snores and whispers of our fellow traveling companions. We chatted, and giggled, and made strange little jokes that no one in the universe would get except for us, based on eighteen years of shared experience, and a love of the internet and all its meems [Future Note: Yes. I misspelled memes. I’m accepting this about myself.] that we share.
Finally, both of us were ready to settle in for a while, me with Wuffles, my computer, and them with Frederick, their iPod. They were in for the “ultimate experience” which, apparently, is “Train and Tron,” where one listens to the Tron soundtrack whilst riding on a train. [Future note: This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read, I’m so mad I’ve never had the Ultimate Experience myself. Gotta get out there and Train & Tron one of these days.] I switched seats with them so that they could use the outlet by our seat, and I could sit on the aisle for the night.
The man across the aisle from us rode the train with something like experience, his feet neatly propped up on a small heating vent that lifted from the floor, and his hands in his jacket pockets. Behind him, two girls curled up together under the same blanket, their foot rests raised entirely, and fast asleep. I snuck glances out of their window at the lights speeding past us as we swayed and pranced down the tracks. Once I’d grown accustomed to the eternal motion of the train, it got much easier to continue writing while in motion. Initially, my fingers would slip onto the wrong key every time we went over an unusual bump.
The map of the Crescent line sits in my lap as I write. I’m enjoying counting down the stations left before we reach D.C. At the moment, we’re stopped in Greenville, South Carolina, though as I typed that sentence the train started moving once again. Watching the buildings pass is something magical, like a scene from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Unlike being on an airplane, train travel ties you to the ground, and the setting. Instead of a blanket of clouds, you get glimpses of cities and lives not your own. It’s a thing of unusual beauty.
As I look at the map, I realize that I could ride this train all the way to New York if the mood took me, and then all the way down to New Orleans. Just one line on the network of Amtrak rails that delicately cross our country, and I could go so many places I have never been. It’s midnight now, and all’s quiet in the car. My sibling is trying to sleep, their iPod still playing, tucked into the pocket of their inflatable traveler’s pillow, and their feet propped up on the seat rest we can’t figure out how to lower. The man across the aisle had woken up, and started filing his nails. No reason not to, I suppose.
I am sitting, facing a window across the aisle from me, watching the empty darkness roll by, and wondering at how limitless it seems until we pass the next light or station. Tomorrow, we’ll grab breakfast at the snack bar together, with an entirely new game of giggling and stumbling as we ride. I’m planning on having one of the muffins that smelled so good while we were up there, but who knows? I might just get myself a hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll.
Why did everyone start flying, when they could glide over the ground like this?
[Future Notes in Summary]
This was definitely a piece from what I would consider to be my ‘glurge’ period. Everything is put so sweetly and nicely. I was definitely aiming for ‘feel good’ when I wrote it. I can’t be mad at myself, though. I know the 20-something girl who was writing it. I know she was feeling complicated about the world and herself. I know she was hurting, because she didn’t appear to have a purpose or a calling. I know she was suffering with untreated, unaddressed depression, anxiety, ADHD, and survivor’s guilt.
If she wanted to write some sickeningly sweet pieces about riding on a train, that’s okay. It’s not like it’s bad. A little self-absorbed, as most feel-good pieces are. I think I intended to leave names out to protect anonymity or something, but I wish that I’d included them. SJ isn’t just my cool sibling, they’re a person. My mom isn’t just a mom. She’s Lila, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and a constant support. My dad isn’t just a lists-guy. He’s Mark, the goofiest, warmest dad a person could ask for, and an author himself.
Weird that I did name SJ’s Russian teacher, who I never met.
I remember this trip only vaguely. I remember feeling so old. So slow. In the next pieces of this article, I refer to several things I do as ‘stupid,’ and it breaks my heart a little. I want to sit myself from back then down and tell her it’s okay to not go as fast as other people are going. I want to tell her it doesn’t make her dumb.
I don’t think anyone really read this piece when I wrote it, and that’s okay. I hope that you enjoyed it if you read it today. The person I was back then… All she wanted was to make other people feel good. It was her only real dream.
I’m glad that I want more than that now.