The cookie jar at Angie’s house was always full of Chips Ahoy Cookies, no matter how many times your hand went in. Angie was my best friend until I moved in 7th grade.
She lived around the corner, down the street, and one house away from one of the two railroad tracks in our Dallas neighborhood. When her mother died of cancer, she moved in with her grandmother for part of the week but saw her father every day and on weekends.
Angie’s house was a great playground. Predating the neighborhood, it sat on a piece of flat, empty land, good for running and yelling. Inside, she even had a player piano in her bedroom and a pool table in the garage, where we became young pool sharks.
We usually could be found on a flat part of the rooftop, having swung up from a Chinaberry Tree next to the house. While collecting berries, we talked about Six Flags, zapped hair, Camp Fire Girls, David Cassidy, K.M.’s short skirts, our bodies, parents and Jesus. The poisonous berries packed a sting when thrown at a human limb. One day, we thought it would be cool to sunbathe. We snuck butter out, applied it to our legs and lay down in the sun. We were soon cured of sunbathing.
Hearing a train whistle, Angie and I would often run into the backfield, waving as the train approached. Sometimes a man would be riding inside one of the boxcars. At the back of the field, hidden from the road and down a steep incline, was the second track that passed under the track running next to her family’s property. We never tested the railroad rules, except once.
A concrete wall and shelf had been built as footing for the legs of the short trestle. It was an easy spot to get in and out of. Bold enough to try anything but too young to think of any way it could be dangerous, we jumped down and sat with our backs against the wall, hidden by the overhead track.
The piercing train whistle got to us first, but it seemed forever before the train crossed the trestle. We didn’t close our eyes, but screamed as if we were riding a roller coaster. This steel horse took us on some ride, rattling our bones as tons of metal, rocking and clashing, rushed just feet above our delicate skulls. I quivered as if thousands of marching bands with huge drums were inside of me. If my heart had stopped, just the sheer force and power surrounding me would never have allowed a missed beat. Although I felt like fleeing, I was paralyzed in the moment.
And then it was over. Checking for adults, we popped up over the wall, and stood up immediately. Although dazed and breathless, we had pulled it off! From then on, we stuck to watching from the roof or yard. For all these years later, I never buy a bag of Chips Ahoy Cookies or hear of a Chinaberry Tree without thinking of Angie. Sometimes I wonder, when she sees a train, does she think of me?