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The Night Train

By William Laferriere


I kissed him goodbye at the train station and boarded the 8pm Acela to New York.

I was alone.

I was by myself.

The aisle seat next to me empty.

It was just me

alone with my thoughts

headphones plugged to distract.


My window reflection stared back at me.

My heart raced as the train slowly departed South Station.

I was somehow doing it.

I was going to visit my brother for the weekend as planned.


48 hours prior I was packing my bags,

excited for all of the restaurants, museums and city life

As One should be.

The only difference now was that I knew I had cancer.

I thought of him. And our good bye embrace.

He knew that I had cancer.

He insisted I stay on plan.

No one else knew,

not even the strangers that took up residence in the seat beside me.


I couldn’t mouth the words

They were swimming in my head like a tornado, a whirlwind, a funnel that refused to drain.

I could see the words.

I heard the nurse’s voice as she verbalized them over the phone.

But I couldn’t believe them.


Cancer was floating above my ability to make sense of it all

to grasp the term

to realize what was happening.

Literally, before that phone call I didn’t know that I had cancer

even though malignant cells were thriving inside me.

The power of knowing changes everything!


The revolving door of strangers ushered on and off the train.

It seemed that at every stop a new person would throw his bag under the seat and plop down beside me.

Some placed their luggage overhead.

Others took out sandwiches.

I was numb.

I was not hungry.

I was curious to ask them where they were headed and try to make small talk - but I had no words.


I buried myself deep into an oversized hoodie and sobbed silently.

Summoning the courage, I went onto YouTube to watch a video about breast cancer.

From professional clips produced by hospitals

to 3D renderings of videos demonstrating how cancer cells divide and spread,

I found myself in a click hole, fascinated by what I was watching.

It was an out of body experience listening to doctors talk about it.

It was factual, scientific, and to the point.

The tears stopped.


As the clicks continued I found it wasn’t the medical explanation I was looking for;

it wasn’t until I came across a homemade video that brought me to a jaw dropping halt.

She lifted her shirt.

I saw the drains.

She unfastened her surgical bra and peeled away the bandages.

I saw the scars.

Then it hit me.


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