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Oh Lost and By the Wind Greaved, Cambridge, We're Back

The Homegoer

By Betsy Nadas

THE LONG lonely sound of the Long Island Railroad came aching down and down the track. Floral Park, Long Island was covered, silent and pure. The lost women, bundled mysteriously in snowsuits and galoshes, slipped, slithered, splashed, cursed and fell into the cold new-sprung fantasies of Long Island slush. They called to us, those strong silent people of this frontier town as they crouched proud and good against the creeping creeps of Queens. They called to us through the black ladened skies. "Get out of town. Cut your hair." Strange, and lonely, their cry. Floral Park, Long Island, I long for you as my feet turn psychedelic hues in the sunshine of your love.

The snow-battle of Jericho Turnpike was over. Trembling and wobbly-weary the legions trudged back, herculean shields of Samsonite luggage, the women wailing and dabbing at their curls. The bodies of Buicks, carcasses of Cadillacs, spoke amber bitter broken words. In the deep brown-lit bar the Gulf-men, Shell-men, Mobil-mechanics leaned at the frosty windows like Gods, laughing lordly as the mortals squirmed and fell.

A northbound train, a train to Cambridge, or even to Boston, was what we longed after. In the delicatessen, in the fire station, among the hoots of the boy scout troops lost on an outing, in the deep sad faces of the traffic cop, we longed for you New England, even for your snow with your different quiet, and different peace, and acceptance of these mysteries of cold and ice. The Long Island Expressway writhes in disbelief--it seems impossible that stupid dumb precipitation, which doesn't know Anybody, has no connections, has never worked its way up, could come between it and the City, the Life, the Important Things. But you, New England, you somehow recognize the face of the weather, and sadly, or eagerly watch to see what new wonder it will write.

AND THEN it comes, the tin-horned train on the fairground tracks, tinkling its way into Floral Park. It stops dark and cold to take on its suspicious passengers. Its blackened windows laugh at our stupid obedience, as we wordlessly without question surrender, to let it take us where it will, to whatever nefarious tunnel in the cold earth's lung.

Tiny fires grin wicked along the rails, warming and warning our route to hell, as conductors swing easy and rough through the doors of their cars. Flashes of cold blue lightning slap at the buildings on either side of the tracks and the lights in the car are sick and jaundiced and keep trying to die.

On we came to the City and fled to Grand Central, the relentless heart of the world, beating us on and on in our journey to the Brain. And there we squeezed on, through track 29, for New Haven, New London, Providence, and Boston. From all walks of life, levelled and commingled by the frozen hand of nature, we battered and battled our ways into the train, and flung ourselves to the hard green bristles of its promiscuous lap. Mingling and yearning, touching and tonguing the mysteries of their separate tunnels of life, they slowly begin, as the train picks up speed, to give of themselves, and speak of their lives. "Do you go to school," the fair young boy asks the old man with a stubble beard and the bleary eyes. "I go to Harvard." The bleary eyes close and open again. "You go to HARVARD, says the girl with boots from across the aisle. "I go to RADCLIFFE!" "You go to Radcliffe," says the girl next to us. "I go to Pembroke." The train chugs its mystery northward to the snow and the quiet of brick and cobble. "Hazen's, you see, is this restaurant where you can go and you know all these people are there and you go with your roommates at eleven o'clock and it's really great. I live in Adams House." The old eyes close.

"Well, we got stranded in this awful place in Long Island. And the people there, you wouldn't have believed it. And there was no way back to Civilization." The legends ravel.

New England, they cry, long-legged mysteries of girls on Garden Street, secrets of Schoenhofs, wonders of Wideners. The small warm rooms, and the man with the pipe, and the strange wild fury which rages in purity around the kiosk. Oh lost, and by the wind greaved, Floral Park, Long Island, I long for you.

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