Journey back with me to the 1980’s, and hear once again the music of escape.
There was a time when I was young when I did not know where I would be when the next new dawn came. Yes, I once took the midnight train (except it was a bus) and I arrived in a teaching career in deep South Texas. I crossed borders into another culture, another way of life, another journey made of words and pictures that hasn’t reached the final station yet.
At the outset, we all take a risk. Born and raised in South Detroit (although it was really North Central Iowa) I passed through established procedures, rules, and regulations to do things that desperately needed doing for people who could only help themselves in very limited ways.
Some spoke mostly Spanish. Some lived in broken homes. One boy lived for a while under the bridge of the Nueces River, but attended school every day because he was hungry to learn, and because free school lunch was the majority of the food he got to eat. He got on a midnight train, and I never saw him or heard from him again. His sister, though, lived with a tia who treated her like a daughter, and grew up to be a school teacher. I let her teach the lesson for me during one class period, as part of an educational experiment, and it put her on her own midnight train.
It was a train going on the same track I followed. Not because of me and what I did for her. But because she came to realize it was the right journey to take for her. It was the perfect anywhere for her.
But there is danger inherent in getting on a midnight train going anywhere. You don’t know who is waiting for you down the line, or what your circumstances will be at the next station along the way. There may be strangers waiting up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night. I befriended other teachers, mentored some, learned from many, even married one. I had a run in or two with people who sell drugs to kids. I had all four of my car tires slashed one night. I had a car window broken out. I had a boy once tell me he would kill me with a knife. I later had that boy tell me he had a good job and a girlfriend and he was grateful that I talked him out of it and never turned him in to the police.
And we end up paying anything to roll the dice just one more time… At one time or another we have all been there, aboard that midnight train to anywhere. There is a moment in everyone’s life when… well, some will win, and some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues. I have been there. I have done that. And it occurs to me, that song plays on in my head still. I am still on that journey. And I won’t stop believing. Because it goes on and on and on and on…