The brisk winter wind invaded the forty-seven year old drunkard torn coat, his shaking hands struggled to keep the button-less garment closed. Jake had several occasions to drink that morning but fought the temptations. Jake knew he would need what little awareness he possess to accomplish the task at hand.
From his crouched position Jake was able to seen the trains bright lights flicker in the distance, as the slow-moving train made its way to the station platform. Jake knew it was nearly impossible to board the still train, with numerous railway employees assisting passengers loading, and unloading their luggage. So he sat patiently at the end of the platform.
Jake drifted in and out as he tried to control his thoughts. No matter what he focused on his thoughts eventually returned to the bottle of wine in his pocket. A thundering horn used to signify the trains departure sounded snapping Jake out of his day-dream, as he peered out from behind his hidden position at the end of the platform. He could see the crowd of well wishers waving goodbye to their loved ones as they boarded the train. Jake knew it was now or never, he steadied himself as he fought the panic that gripped him.
Jake casually touched the pocket that held the bottle of wine and a day old sandwich. The train began to move as Jake looked on his narrow eyes scoured the platform for any railway employees that might be lurking. Before he could form another thought Jake was in between the rail cars struggling to pull himself up the short distance. The train jerked from side to side making it harder for the aging man to establish a grip on the old metal.
The train began to pick up speed causing Jake to lose his footing, he held on for dear life as his feet dangled six inches from the big steel wheels. Jake twisted as his body crashed into the fast-moving train. His rough swollen hands gripped the steel feverishly to let go meant certain death for the aging alcoholic. Jake spiraled as he slammed into the train for the umpteenth time. Jake could feel his right side of his body turning warm, his first thought was he had been injured, until the smell of alcohol and foul meat penetrated his nasal passage.
It was clear to Jake that there would be no drinking or eating on this trip, the absence of alcohol was a thought too much to bear for Jake, his once forceful grip was reduced to a light clinging. Tears ran down his face, Jake felt the end was near, the aging man called on God but found himself asking for help. And cursing his maker in the same breath his tired arms had reached their limit. He had no strength left to hold on at that moment, Jake reasoned that letting go would solve all his problems.
The trains blaring horn ushered in a moment of clarity for Jake, he reached deep down within himself and found the strength he needed. Soon Jake was able to pick himself up enough to feel safe, but his fast beating heart could not be calmed by Jake's sure footing. Jake was alive and more alive than he had been in year, his heart raced along with his thoughts as started out to the open plain.
A wide range of emotions flooded Jake's system as he made his way to the back of the train, where there was surely an empty car. Jake remembered a time when he welcomed death but on this night he would choose life.
Jake settled in the last car that held livestock and decide sleep was his only option, he arranged a makeshift bed out of hay and settled in for the night, but sleep would be hard to find. Jake tossed and turned as vision of his former life turned into dreams. he dreamed of his wife who was stranger after five years of marriage, his son who hadn't bounded with since birth and last but not least his over bearing mother-in law. Jake was in love with Sharon but was unprepared for children so early on in the marriage. Along with a mother-in-law who was involved in every aspect of his and Sharon' lives.
As Jake awoke the next morning and was greeted by a young man who he mistook for a railway employee. Jake eyed the young man intensely as he rose to his feet. The young man broke the silence, "My name is Harold and I am going to New York to find work and you." "I am Jake and I am going nowhere in particular." The two men eyed each other, once again Harold broke the silence with a gesture. The young man extended his hand and offered Jake a piece of fried chicken and a slice of cornbread, which he readily excepted. The two ate and took in the scenery. Harold was excited about going to New york and couldn't stop talking about all the wonderful things he had heard about the fast paced city. The young man's excitement delighted Jake, as the young man went on for the better part of an hour.
Jake found himself thinking of his youth. Jake hated to think of something he had no control over. For the first time in a long time Jake thought of what he could do to fix his present situation, every positive thought was followed by two negative thoughts, "Could I possible find work in New York?" Jake thought to himself. Harold seemed to find so much beauty in life as he spoke about the future, "Are you always so upbeat?" Jake asked, "So you do talk?" Harold replied, "I have found that life is what you make it." Harold added.
As the train passed through city after city, the duo sat and talked. Jake admired the young man's maturity and lust for life. Harold mentioned a pregnant girlfriend back at home. Jake had a hard time imaging himself at that age with so much responsibility on his shoulders. Jake drew strength from the young Harold and fought the temptation whenever the thought of alcohol entered his mind.
Jake decided then and there that this would be a new beginning, no longer would he drift from city to city, in search of the next bar. He stared towards the bright sun reminiscent of the future. He and Harold continued talking for the next fifty miles, enjoying each other's company. Harold would never know the impact he would have on Jake's life, as the train made its way to New York City. The men shook hands after exiting the train and parted ways, each better off for having met.