Having survived the Great Midterm War (GMW), having battled lab reports, problem sets, essays and exams, and coming away with only minor injuries (consisting mostly of wounded pride, cramped hands and paper cuts), I was ready to return home in glorious triumph to my family. But like another heroic figure wishing to return home, my journey was arduous and left me with a tale worth retelling.
I purchased a ticket for the train home to the hills of my homeland in western Massachusetts. The first step of the trip involved reaching the Dinky, a magical miniature shuttle. Things seemed to be off to a good start. What I didn’t realize was that the gods were in a teasing mood and had decided to play tricks on me. They conspired to keep changing the path to the Dinky as I searched endlessly for it, resulting in a wild and tangled journey through desolate (de)construction grounds and past the lonely desert Wawa island. With every 10 steps I took, still groggy with sleep and lugging along my battle armor (textbooks and laundry), the train station shifted another three feet. Eventually the gods tired of their games, and the Dinky rose out of the mist. I hadn’t counted on an endless line to buy tickets, however, or a Dinky packed so full of students desperate to escape the ravaged battle landscape that I would be shut out of the train I needed to be on. Damn.
Finding a few other desperate travelers to accompany me,Ihailed a cab, and we all piled in. The carriage took off with unexpected speed, which fit my mood, but was nonetheless a bit unsettling. We careened along the back roads of the great kingdom of New Jersey. Tumbling on top of each other with each sharp turn, we desperately attempted to hear the incoherent prophecies that the driver jabbered every so often.
We tumbled out of the cab happy to have reached Princeton Junction alive and laughed at our unfortunate experience. Never laugh. Never. The gods do not appreciate it, and they punished us with another lesson. When our connecting train arrived at 10 a.m., the doors didn’t open. We waited. And waited. Eventually the train began to pull away from the station. Desperately we chased alongside, seeking out the conductor. Explaining our situation in puffs, my second-in-command, Grant, and I pleaded with this indifferent fellow, who scowled and then laughed outright at us, refusing entry. Seriously? May Hermes grant him slow service tomorrow.
Ever resourceful, and desperate to make our way out of Princeton, we hopped aboard the next available train, the New Jersey Transit, which crept along at a snail’s pace. The train galleys were so packed that the conductor (this one a roving man with a sharp tongue and many heads), was forced to pick off some of the passengers along the way. Their cries of “but wait ...” were lost on the four winds.
Arriving in the fabled Penn station at 11:29 a.m., I sprinted to catch my 11:30 Amtrak connection, tripping up the stairs and rushing through the crowd of slowly milling sheep too stupid to GET OUT OF MY WAY. Needless to say, I missed the train. What in Hades was I meant to do?
Exhausted, wounded by sheep bites and on the verge of tears, I called my mom. Her phone was off. So was my dad’s. I couldn’t get through to my brother or sister either. Where were all these people, the land of the dead? Was I really asking to contact the spirit world? I was willing to make the blood sacrifice, really, anything, as long as I could start getting some answers.
Eventually, I spoke with my parents and bought a new ticket to a town about an hour from home, with plans to be picked up from there. And then I waited. And waited. It felt like years of waiting for this next train. I waved goodbye to my helpful cohort, Grant, who ventured off to Boston, and then it was me, afloat in an odd sea of bodies. As I stood staring at the departures board, bounding up and down with nervous energy, a boy approached me. He introduced himself, detained me and started hitting (on) me, complimenting my eyes. Maybe because he had only one? I managed to escape by pretending to be part of a family in fleece jackets. At 12:30, like a Cyclops’ boulder, it hit me — the smell of McDonald’s burgers, terribly tantalizing. I drifted toward the shop, and I was almost drawn in before I remembered the experiences of my friend Odysseus and stopped. Do not eat the sacred cows. Right.
The Amtrak I was waiting for eventually arrived, 23 minutes late, to platform 13. Lucky 13, right? Oh, man ... I then had to transfer in New Haven, where I managed to avoid the suitors (not prospective people to date — no, I’m talking about the pretentious, ahem, students of said town). I finally found refuge in train 464 headed to Springfield. I sank back onto the seat, exhaled and recounted my tales. At sundown, I reached home and my patiently waiting family who had prepared a feast in my honor. I was finally Home-r.