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On Being Spirited Away

The Last Train Ride

JAPAN | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [129] | Scholarship Entry

With a keening whistle, the train screeched down the tracks. Without me on it. I struggled to pull my suitcases up over the curb and under the eaves of the depot building as I watched the carriage disappear from view into the tunnel around the bend. I had missed my last train. My stomach dropped at the realization that my three years in Obi town were coming to their close so haphazardly.

"Don't worry. I will drive you if I have to," Kumi, my former supervisor said, appearing beside me. The petite woman had been working tirelessly to make my departure as smooth as possible for nearly three weeks, and the thought of inconveniencing her only made my heart sink lower.

"Let me check the schedule," I insisted and headed inside, already knowing that the next regular service train would arrive far too late for me to get to the airport in time for my flight.

The stationmaster greeted me warmly, not seeming to mind the sweltering heat despite his heavy blue uniform. "Are you going to the airport?"

"Yes." I looked up at the freshly painted route map that seemed so out of place in the dingy one-room station with its rough-hewn wooden benches and tables.

"The next train is in two hours," he said, confirming my fears. "But the special train arrives in fifteen minutes."

With those words, my hope instantly returned. The special train, with its wide panoramic windows, had been making its way up and down the coast of Miyazaki for a little over a year, and I had yet to ride it. The thought of watching the countryside pass by like a scene from a Hayao Miyazaki film on my last trip north almost made the pain of departing worth bearing.

With a genuine smile and a bow, I paid for my ticket. Then I bade farewell to my devoted colleague and rolled my luggage up the stone ramp to the platform. As I waited, my eyes scanned the town sprawled out before me, from the distant hill where the old castle foundations rested to the humble 7-11 across the street I had loitered at so often.

The whistle of the approaching train tore me out of my memories, and I eagerly boarded. Despite my newfound excitement, I couldn't hold back my tears as the train lurched forward and the town that had been my home slipped out of sight. The carriage sped into the tunnel, into darkness, only to spirit me away to a land of towering cedars. The hour and a half flew by in a haze of lush forest and rocky seaside that ended far too soon, but those last sights, that last ride, I will never forget.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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