Travelogues: Observations on a Train: To Have a Home by Eram Socat

Travelogues is a new series by cutebutsingleforareason where contributors share their stories of a life dedicated to travel. Inspired by my own solo lady adventure Euro Stories, Travelogues is a take on the art of travel writing with the use of several different and compelling voices, mediums, and formats, expanding the definition of what it truly means to free yourself from the ordinary. Be it short or long – travel has a magical way of transforming those brave enough to leave the comforts of home and explore the world abroad. I’ve invited some of the women I’ve met on the road, in addition to, local adventurers to make a densely woven narrative that will be eventually become a ‘zine.

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I sit on the train this morning watching the methed out, presumably homeless, unfortunately young couple in front of me frantically going through their multiple sunbaked bags looking for their T pass to pay for their ride into downtown. The wife wears a Bruins hat, displaying reverence for a city who has failed her in both taking care of her health and letting her thrive.

The two are discussing their plans for the day and who they have to go see before night falls (at 4:30pm in the frozen north) so they can secure their respite. This is a common site in the morning and late afternoon. I have discovered that this city has an excellent program to clothe the homeless. It took me a long time to even spot them because most people up here, homed or no, have backpacks all the time. In Florida if you see a person walking outside with a backpack, you can bet a lucky penny that they have a DUI somewhere in their history, or worse. Up here, the homeless look like citizens who just look like they’ve been outside more than your typical pale Bostonian.

When I first moved up here, the only difference I could spot in homeless people is that they go through the garbage looking for food and pick up half-used cigarettes from the ground. Before my radar was honed, I would see normal looking people just sifting through garbage cans like it was nothing. There were many games played of hippy/homeless/both in my first couple months. I have heard that there is a program being developed to pick up the day’s wasted leftovers from restaurants to prepare meals for the homeless and I hope it comes to fruition. There is also a recent story coming out of Salt Lake City where the city straight up built housing for the homeless because it is cheaper than paying their medical care and policing them. So far it has had dramatic effects. I hope that trend continues.

In addition to the homeless population, there exists a class in between of almost exclusively elderly stonefaced Asian people who rifle through garbage every day for recyclables. Presumably they live in Chinatown (not my cultural ignorance, they really do mostly live there) , but you see them everywhere. At first I was startled. In Florida if you hear garbage rummaging sounds at night or in the morning, it’s a raccoon, rascal kid, or home invader. You tense up when hearing the sounds. Here, you get used to it and go right back to sleep.

The train I take to work is known for being “the bad one” because it has the most stops, goes through two colleges, and stops at the Fenway park station. I don’t think the train is anywhere near as bad as natives regard it, so my observations are more humorous than anything, usually. Occasionally you will get annoying late night reveler college students, but it is surprisingly rare given the amount of colleges in the area. Most of the people I see are usually heading to/from work/school, or to/from a Red Sox game. And the homeless.

One time I was in a liquor store in Clearwater and there were 4 regulars from the area discussing how much money they had between them to buy a drink to have a good time that night, and when they tallied it up it was $7.32: enough for a 4-pack of tallboy PBR’s. I wanted to give them some money to help them eke out some joy, albeit short-lived, but I was broke myself and was only at the store along for the ride. I had a moment of “I’m one crisis away from them” then, and when I purposely walk down a particularly derelicty street near my job, the thought stays fresh in my mind and reminds me to stay on my toes. I’m far from being in that situation these days, thankfully, but it still sticks; it still resides.

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About the author: Eram Socat moved north of the wall not too long ago after a lifetime of living in the Shallow South known as Florida. He writes about his thoughts and experiences.

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