Railroad

I had a friend who had abandonment issues with her recurrent boyfriend. When she was between bouts with Tony, she could have had her choice of any of her male friends who waited in the wings for her to swallow, say she’d had it with him, and move past the bad experience.
I always admired her faithfulness and patience with the walking train wreck that was Tony. Every time he’d walk away, she’d take a deep breath, smile, and throw herself into her studies.
Tony was such a fool. Audrey was not interested in making him over, cleaning out the mechanism, or anything similar. She just loved and admired him for who he was. And, despite you now thinking that this was one heck of a jerk, that wasn’t entirely so. Tony was was bright, well-spoken, and usually considerate. When he wandered from Audrey, it wasn’t in pursuit of other women.
About four times a year, something would galvanize him into action, and off he’d go chasing trains and railroads with his camera and notebook. This was his symptomatic response to whatever tides pulled at his life.
But, unlike typical railfans, he didn’t depart from home with a schedule and a pack of train fanning friends. No, he just was no longer there.

My friend and I once spotted him near the stockyards in Tempe, and another acquaintance spotted him at Grand Central Station in New York. Audrey, in desperation, sought help from his parents. They insisted that he’d been this way back to early childhood when he received a set of Lionel trains and his first camera. His childhood room was filled with photos of famous engines and trains.

Being clever and excelling at writing, Audrey decided to tag along on his next excursion and write about it. The solution would not have worked for a lesser woman. Over the years, a string of books emerged on railroads, railroad stations, and railroad workers. All well written with carefully composed photos to accompany the text. We understand that their first born came into the world in a sleeper compartment, the second on a trip to a narrow-gauge railroad in Colorado.
A year ago, I received a postcard from India. Audrey suggested that Tony was slowing down, and they had their eye on a nice former railroad station in New Hampshire where the old Boston & Maine used to run. Tony was getting into model railroading in his retirement.

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