He sat in the train lounge reeking of yesterday’s hooch. Lonely on a moving vehicle filled with other people deliberately avoiding him. His fingernails were permanently caked with oil and dirt from working on his truck. A camouflage jacket hung over his body with a name patch that had “Wade” stitched on it. His jeans had an unfathomable crease in each pants leg that seemed like train tracks leading to nowhere in particular.
Wade’s full-bodied plaything, Janie, dropped him off at the train station early enough for them to sit in her Buick and kill time by kissing and her shoving her saggy breasts in his face. Janie was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted and had no qualms with telling Wade about her every desire. Janie wanted what she thought all women craved. She wanted Wade to be with her all the time. Call her all the time. Bring her flowers and candy just because. Janie even wanted Wade to get her a puppy, like how they did in the movies.
Wade always asked, “If I get you a puppy, who’s gon’ walk the damn thing?”
“You are baby,” Janie replied.
Needless to say, Janie was puppy-less.
Wade was on his way to witness the birth of his grandson, making him a grandpa for the first time. His son’s girlfriend was in labor as Wade sat on the train drinking beer out of the can and looking at the trees and creeks and general American wilderness as the train hustled along the tracks. No one wanted to sit next to him. It was just fine by him. More leg room. Most of his family treated him like shit too, and his daughter was the worst of them all.
To tell you the truth, he never liked his daughter. His ex-wife named her Celeste and he never liked the name either. Too whimsical for a southern girl to write on things. Wade thought it sounded like a name some gypsy flaunted, surely not a name for something that came from his sack. She never called, she never wrote, and she probably never wondered about him. For all he knew his daughter had completely erased him from her mind, passing through life with no father at all.
Wade reached into his knapsack for a piece of paper, anything to write the word “tree” on. For some reason he kept thinking, “tree…tree…tree.” The truth was, that’s what his life felt like. A lonely tree in the woods yearning for nourishment and love, only to be chopped down or etched on. Wade fumbled around in the bag past his soft pack of cigarettes, past a candy bar, and past his pocket knife. His hand stopped on what felt like a folded piece of paper. He pulled it out and saw that Janie had folded a photo of herself and placed it in Wade’s bag. On the back she drew a lopsided heart. No words, no date, no name. Her smile was forced and simple, but perfect in every way. Wade remembered the word “tree” and stared down at the photo. He wasn’t as lonely as he’d imagined. Janie was nice enough to have around and he knew when he returned to Mississippi she’d be there for him. She’d make his favorite dinner, smothered chicken, and life would go on in their arrangement. He’d never marry her, much to her dismay, but he knew she’d grow to accept it as part of their relationship. Wade wasn’t the loving type. Wade wasn’t Mr. Right. Wade was a man who wanted to be loved but didn’t know how to do it himself. All that he could ask for was a woman who understood his shortcomings and not bust his balls about it.
He brought his knapsack from the floor and sat it in the seat next to him, needing no one to fill the seat. The world flew by his window and the suds were settling in his beer. He was getting closer and closer to his destination to meet a boy that would hopefully learn from his grandfather’s mistakes. A boy that would be loved and wanted. A boy that would be handed down a camouflage jacket with the same last name, “Wade”, stitched above his heart.