The phrase train wreck implies someone who can only go towards his/her very messy destruction.Usually the people deserving of this descriptive adjective are very clearly not in control of what should be the internal world which, in these cases, spills very uncomfortably outside. J., my usual partner in crime, described an acquaintance as a train wreck and then we swiftly applied the epithet to countless others with the speed of light. “But people like train wrecks,” said J., “because they can help them and feel better about themselves.” Though not feasible at first, we half-heartedly included ourselves in this category as well – at times, not always – but decided that we were train wrecks by night, not quite as visible but perhaps more dangerous.
The topic of trains and accidents reminded me of a former professor who constantly challenged the way I read literature. In Anna Karenina, he chose as a very telling episode Anna’s first return to St. Petersburg after she has met Vronsky and is trying to escape the inevitable pull. While in her cabin, she tries to concentrate on an English novel. As literature students, we were supposed to analyze the elements and importance of this passage in relation to the whole. And, while I understood the meaning theoretically, this specific part never seemed that important to me until very recently, while I absentmindedly watched the latest film adaptation of the great novel. I finally realized that at that moment, the train starts its journey on the rails and nothing can stop it from going where it has to. The story starts at that moment (a moment of escape, in her mind) and doesn’t end until she does.