Train Hopping Auckland
Loud nasally snores echoed from the living room and I tapped Zep to wake him, but he did not budge. He lay there stone cold on the blue suede couch from a hard night of partying, and dropping acid. His wavy brown hair stood awry like a mad scientist’s, covering the pits of his face speckled with acne, as drool pooled to the corners of his open mouth. His limp arm dangled off the sofa like dead weight.
So I wandered to the kitchen where Rob lay unresponsive in the fetal position on the white sofa, trying to wake him. The whites of his eyes peeped through his half-open eyelids as I waved at his face, but he never woke. He lay there fully dressed with his shoes on the upholstery. Tendrils of his brillo pad hair swayed slightly from the light breeze trickling in by the sliding glass door to the balcony.
I rummaged through their kitchen, riffling around through empty bourbon cola cans, empty tobacco packets, loose shavings of weed and an array of other rubbish left a muck in the living room, looking for a pen. As soon as the clouds faded to a subtle gray with holes of promising blue skies, I scribbled a brief note in yellow pen on the trippy sketch I drew the night prior, “Hey guys, thanks for everything. Keep on livin’.”
The whole house sat quietly still for late morning, with the only sounds from the high-pitched voice of a little kid gaming in the living room. He sat in the same recliner, nestled in a blanket for the past 12 hours, button mashing a PS4 controller, with his eyes glued to Fortnite.
I drug my tingly feet against the rough carpet until reaching the foyer where a mountain of shoes piled up by the front door. I cradled my light blue, and black sneaks while opening the front door and stepped outside, gazing up at the film of gray misty sky. My feet wiggled into my shoes while I pulled the laces extra tight, gearing up for a brief walk to the Hamilton freight yard.
I turned off Amanda Avenue, wandering suburbia towards Minogue Park. My mind dazed in a fog from restlessness despite the heaps of sleep on their futon, partly due to lack of caffeine, and my affinity for nicotine, from social smoking countless fags and ripping cones (bong rips of weed and tobacco) the night prior to a state of blitzed paranoia. Grogginess aside, I wandered. The thick air prodded rain, shadowing the giant torch hidden amongst the barnacles of clouds. Still I walked onward, drifting across multiple lanes of traffic by the roundabout, tramping down Rifle Range Road. I sauntered along through the pedestrian tunnel towards Lincoln Street, gazing at the scribbled tags and meaningless graffiti along the walls, spitting me out towards the sidewalk parallel to Highway 1.
I walked and walked some more, scuffing the soles of my worn shoes against the slick sidewalks. This area became all too familiar to me as I reached the corner, listening to the current of chocolate cascade against a culvert of stone laced walls, down the hill to my right, muffled by the humming of traffic. The pedestrian signal beeped as I looked out ahead at the fitness center on the corner, and of course, I jaywalked meandering under the railroad overpass stemming from the freight yard.
Chain linked fencing bordered the corridors of steel track as I tramped along the pavement, walking between homes and the tallest of coniferous trees. It smelled of wet pine and freshly cut grass. The shrieks and squeals of steel rung my ears like a soothing melody, keen only to riders, as I peered out at blocks of cars working in the yard. My legs kept walking beyond the canopy of trees and through the open verdant field to my usual spot, Frankton Signal Box.
Dogs pranced around, wagging their tails, barking, slobbering and panting, chasing and hurdling, just being dogs. Their owners walked, throwing toys and sticks, and suddenly a gray swarm swallowed the short bursts of blue skies, shifting to rain. Everyone disappeared. But I sat beneath an awning at the model engineer’s railway park, peeking out at the red clay drowning under a small pond between light ripples of water. Ducks quacked, with their little orange flippers striking the water beneath their stomachs, as they swam in circles, begging for food. I sat on the concrete listening to the raindrops pitter against the roof and through intermittence, I scaled the corner I-beam of the awning, just enough to reach a working plug, fit to charge my phone at the perfect bum spot while the day drifted away with the lulling of rain.
Day turned to night without even a blink of dusk and still I sat scrunched to the wall looking off to the yard, listening to the whistles of freight hum, shunt, clank and thump over the decadence of rain. Freedom soothed the soul with much time to do as I pleased, but in this instance its pureness tormented my spirit. My scrambled thoughts ran free and I wanted so much to run, but I knew better as I looked at my feet and wiggled my toes.
I looked up to dreary sky but the tapping ceased so I wandered to an alcove along the fence that guarded the freight yard. My shoes absorbed the droplets like a succulent from the wet grass and ivy spread along the gully. My toes dampened through my cotton socks, but I just watched the yard beyond the fence, and hoped for a train, any train. Nothing stopped on the mainline in either direction and then the touch of tears moistened my nose, trickling down my face faster and faster, emerging from the sky. I succumbed in fear, wrestling into my bivy, and any moment longer, meant complete saturation.
The noises of slippery screeching scrawled the steel like slicing sticks of chalk, but I merely stayed hidden with the thinnest strip of nylon wrapped over my body, until I fell asleep.
The night stormed heavily and my body heat drenched my sleeping bag from inside my waterproof cocoon. I woke several times when it roared a waterfall and crept to sleep between the silence of drops, but I lay imprisoned there until late morning as the ramblings of rain continued.
The ground shook from freight and nearby construction as an excavator dug a trench in the nearby lot early morning. I lay there drenched in sweat and condensation listening to the soft rhythm of drops plunge between branches of pine and then it stopped. The rumbling of tracts squished into the mud and the beeping, blinking and blaring of heavy machinery wrenched my thoughts, but I packed up and shifted further into the city skipping between business awnings on Victoria Street.
Crime and Punishment entered my hands as I perused Browser’s Books, an overpriced secondhand book store with myriad titles. I needed to escape into the words of fiction as I wandered back the path I came, waiting for my night train to nowhere. I found myself back at the model engineer’s railway park, immersed in deep thought, between the few pages of text I read while the day ticked onward slowly.
The solitude of sitting by the yard for two days with freedom clenched in my hands felt daunting, more because I wanted to just MOVE. As time passed my palms perspired and soon the sky faded to deep purple with an undertone of dark blue. The clouds finally cleared a path for the few stars shone through the big city lights and I moseyed to the gully behind the fence by the freight yard.
10 PM struck my clock and just as I opted to tuck away inside my bivy did the gentle whisper of steel halt on the main track, a northbound.
“Fuck it, guess I’m headin’ to Auckland.”
I scurried through the gully to the open hole in the fence, wiggling my gear through first before ducking and skittering amongst the ballast. The containers stood tall like citadels blockading the light within the yard. I tiptoed in pure darkness, dipping and dodging prickers and pine, until I reached a flat car with two containers perched on it. At first glance, the space between looked too small to ride, but I threw my pack up wedging it between the two doors and then my body followed. It felt uncomfortable to say the least, but rideable, and hidden. I shimmied down, touching my ass against the cool metal floor, with my feet dangling off the side of the car and waited for the snake to unleash her hiss.
I shut my eyes. My mind felt free of innocence and fear as the vigilance of my ears focused on the subtle sounds of night. She sat on the mainline for an hour before the sibilant rush of air filled her hoses and I shifted my feet up to the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees for a short ride North to where it all started months prior.
She jerked forward, clunking and clanking, shifting to a slow roll. Lights skipped above as her creep switched to a thrum and off she sailed like a serpent soaring through the city lights. With the blur of industry and decadence of crossings came the freedom of night, the chorus of the landscape undertoning the symphony of steel. It felt marvelously splendid as the wind struck my face in heavy gusts, plowing the empty space between the containers in bursts.
As she roared along the steel, the blue dusk of sky left a montage of black trees stenciled along the landscape. I scrutinized the blue smeared beyond the speckled tendrils of clouds. Where did it come from without a visible glowing moon? I never before witnessed such a luminous night sky, free of stars, zipping through the barren countryside.
She zigzagged along the wetlands just north of Te Kauwhata and they shimmered through the blue lens of dark sky, a rippling silver. I feared rain with the thick smell of wet air, shifting to a strong poignant odor of pesticides mixed with rank manure, as she scoured the farmlands drifting closer to Auckland. She blazed along the mainline, thrashing beside the highway, as I peeked out at the sleeping city, free of people, with empty parking lots and the blur of store lights.
She approached Auckland, humming by the maintenance depot and the light rail, obscuring faces through window panes of train cars with her pursuit along the steel. Then it all shifted outside of Westfield Yard. Her pace slowed to a cruising roll as I looked out at buildings of containers stacked atop each other. She squeaked. She screeched. Her wheels locked tight scraping the steel, and her roll turned to a creep and then a stoppage right outside the yard.
I hopped off, looking back at the bright lights reflecting on Otahuhu Station, turning around, watching her sail off towards the yard. Where to go, where to sleep, I did not know as time creeped. The early morning sky lay thick with clouds and I only hoped for a dry sleep, just one full night.