Track 4 From Elton John's 1991 album, The One. A duet with Eric Clapton.

Elton John:
There's a hungry road I can only hope's
Gonna eat me up inside

I'm leaving. Sunrise will find me long gone away.

I didn't have a choice, really. Well, not exactly. Death is never much of an option.

Then again, it's not that simple. It never is.

I know it, and so does everyone else; this is an exile. The spirit of the place has passed its judgment, and the time has long since passed for me to appeal.

But there is time yet. A few more hours. And my work is not yet done.

There's a drifting spirit coming clean
In the eye of a lifelong fire

I have left behind too much in this city, but I have what I came for.

It's funny. I didn't think I'd miss this place. I am reminded of a passage from a favorite book of mine, describing the Rub Al Khali; the Empty Quarter, the most dangerous desert known to man. Every man who ever traveled the Empty Quarter found his way back, somehow seduced by the perfect emptiness.

It wasn't the emptiness that shattered me. That was done by a different power. I don't know how or why I survived. The only thing I did know is that whether or not I was dead or alive was a question of semantics.

I'm standing at the Compass Stone now; across the river from the horrid shack I cannot dignify by calling home. The river itself is filthy, but, having lived next to it, I don't notice anymore.

The town has always belonged to her. Memory is a thorn all its own. At every turn, she is there, in the shadows, watching. And I cannot tell - is she keeping the watch of a patient assassin or of a guardian angel?

But today will be different. Today this town belongs to me.

Tell Monday I'll be around next week
I'm running ahead of my days
In the shotgun chance that scattered us
I've seen the error of my ways

I visit the Museum of Science first, at the river's mouth. She is here, too, among the exhibits. I walk through the exhibits wordlessly, scouring every surface to find the memories I leave behind. When I leave the place, if I have done my work right, there is no trace left, not even a memory.

Eric Clapton:
Well we've wrapped ourselves with golden crowns
Like sun gods spitting rain

Downtown. There are so many people here that it almost seems I could get lost in the crowds. The mall in the tower is the same as ever, no different for the past years. Still the software store, the Museum Company. The cart in the aisle that sold games is gone. I don't miss it.

Found a way home written on this map
Like red dye in my veins

This is different. I visit the place where I found the map in the town center. One more seemingly random little knicknack shop. Games, crafts. I liked this place.

In the hardest times that come around
The fear of losing grows

And then my head raises for a moment, looking up at the sky, gauging how much time I have left. But I stop. Across the cobblestones, there's a Yankee Candle Company. Memories flash through my brain. Not my memories, someone else's, I swear. I shake my head for a moment, trying to clear the cobwebs. It doesn't work.

I've lost and seen the world shut down
It's a darkness no one knows

The Arboretum is the only place I found any peace here, really. And now those memories are coming back again, and I can't really convince myself that they aren't trying to kill me. She's here again. A dress of green silk, a black and gold belt. Those colors trigger even more memories in turn.

This time, I run. I know where those memories are trying to drag me, and I can't go back there.

And I've poured out the pleasure and dealt with the pain
Standing in a station waitin' in the rain
I'm starting to feel a little muscle again
But love is lost like a runaway train

I head west. The Pizzeria Uno. That fateful autumn night. The House Of Blues. They've got catfish tonight. I catch dinner, and head back out into the local mall, just to look at the bookstore upstairs. Against my nature, I leave quickly.

Here there be ghosts, and one of them looks like me.

Further west, I find a movie theater and a Staples. Both familiar. A Dunkin Donuts there, and another memory, something about hazelnut iced coffee. A JC Penny catalog store.

And that's when it hits. I'm him. He's me. Even still, after all that's happened, we're bound to the wheel together. And I can't tell which one is the ghost.

I'm out of control and out of my hands
I'm tearing like a demon through no man's land
Trying to get a grip on my life again
Nothing hits harder than a runaway train

As I sit in the cramped seat of the airplane, I explore all the small chances. Nothing else to do. Two questions are there, and won't leave.

I close my eyes and force sleep. By the time I groggily waken, my legs are asleep, and I'm somewhere a couple of miles above Nebraska.

I'm free.

Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning

You were sound asleep, and I knew you would be. I was scared, alone, and upset. I didn't know where else to turn. So I called you. And you answered. You were still half asleep, and I was so upset and crying so hard I could hardly speak. And of course there was the fear of being caught as well. Yet whatever it was that I managed to say was enough. You knew talking on the phone any longer was not an option, it wasn't my phone. I was not supposed to be using it, I would be overheard. So you logged on. And you calmed me. You made me feel not alone. You made me feel safe. You made it possible to just keep going. You made it okay. You said you were proud of me. Instead of giving in, I called you. And you listened. You were my light.

So tired that I couldn't even sleep
So many secrets I couldn't keep

It's been so long since I have slept that all the days have blended together. Has it been three days or three weeks? So afraid to sleep, because being this tired the dreams are sure to come. I can't sleep because of the nightmares, but the longer I go without sleeping the stronger those terrors are when they come. I can never tell anyone what those dreams are. Yet, I am so scared. Alone. Frightened. I need someone to know. I need help.

Promised myself I wouldn't weep
One more promise I couldn't keep

I swore I wouldn't cry no more. I don't want to be a weeping mass of emotion, but I am. I try not to make promises unless I know I can keep them, but I do. I make promises to myself, and I just can't keep them. The harder I try the worse I feel. It seems like the disappointments just never end. I promised not to run away, but I'm running still. I have to run, I have to hide. I cannot let them leave me, so I must leave before they can leave me hurt. I know it doesn't fix it, I know either way I end up alone, scared, and depressed. All these promises, they just never end.

It seems no one can help me now
I'm in too deep
There's no way out
This time I have really led myself astray

I feel so lost and helpless now. The psychiatrist said "You're too sick, I can't help you." Well, there goes all hope! Thanks so much. I've cut my skin one too many times. I've swallowed one too many pills. I've made just one too many mistakes. One too many stupid decisions. One two many manic choices. One too many psychotic actions. One too many lost friends. One too many wrong turns. All hope is lost. I am helpless now.

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here no there

Now I'm gone. I'm on this train, headed for nowhere. I don't know where I am. I don't know where I came from, and I have no clue at all where I am headed. All I know is I don't want to go back to where I came from. I know now that they were right, I don't fit in. I feel alone, frustrated, scared.  I have not found a place where I belong.  Will I ever find such a place?  I don't know.  I have a little hope but it's slipping away, I'm not coming back here ever again.  Life is going to change.  How it will change I don't know.  I am not quite sure just yet where it is I'm going. 

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

I need my friends right now. I need to be reminded of the happy times. I need someone to show me that there is to be more happy times to come. I find myself not caring about anything anymore.  How did I get to this point?  How did I get to the point that nothing matters?  I want to care if I live or die.  I want to want to do things I used to love to do.  Now even my favorite things feel like a chore.  So this is depression?  I do not like it.  I need someone to pull me out of this.  I want to wonder about things again.  I want to wish for tomorrow.  I want to care.  I need someone in my life who will make me want to get out of the bed each morning. 

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

They say I'm mentally ill. They say "she's crazy." It's because I know things they don't. I know about life beyond what is normally considered life]. I have talked to angels.  I have secrets that I can never tell, for no one here would understand them.  I lay here drowning in my own tears as I wait for the way out to come.  I hope this train gets here soon.   They do not know how immortal, but I know.

Everything is cut and dry
Day and night, earth and sky
Somehow I just don't believe it

I've lost that joy that comes from wonder. You know that joy you see in every child's eyes. The one that makes a person beautiful. When a person still has this gaiety within their heart there is a sparkle in their eyes, and a smile on their hearts.  It's that special thing that makes a child so innocent.  Once it's gone there is no longer that belief in magic.  Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, and even a Lover's kiss cease to make you smile.  They all cease to be real, cease to bring happiness, for the thing that I once had that let me enjoy such simple pleasures has died. 

Bought a ticket for a runaway train
Like a madman laughin' at the rain
Little out of touch, little insane
Just easier than dealing with the pain

So now I admit it, I'm crazy, mentally ill, off my rocker, psychotic, or whatever label you want to put on me. It's not important. It's easier to listen to the voices, to laugh at the rain, to run naked down the street, to talk to the trees, and to do so many other things that they want to send a person to the asylum for.  It's so much easier than to let oneself feel the pain.  It's so much easier to be the crazy girl with Doctor Seuss socks on with her beautiful prom dress than to be the girl crying in the bathroom stall.  It's so much easier to be the fool than to be the responsible one.  It's so hard to be the one who takes care of everyone, who works so hard each day to make sure everyone around you is okay, and happy.  It wears a person out.  Sometimes we each have to just let go and laugh at the rain as it soaks your brand new PDA, ruining it. 

Runaway train never comin' back
Runaway train tearin' up the track
Runaway train burnin' in my veins
Runaway but it always seems the same

We all turn to crutches of one kind or another at some point in our lives. Some of us turn to drugs, some to self-injury, some to abusive relationships, some to writing, some to shopping. There are as many crutches as there are people in this world. The problem with most of these coping mechanisms is in the end, nothing has really changed. I cut myself, I bled, it calmed me for the time, brought me back to earth. The problem is, the feeling it brought wears off quickly, and one is left with another scar and that same desperate feeling. Many people turn to drugs. The drugs change the way we feel while they are in our system, but then they wear off. Where does that leave us? There must be a way to change this cycle of depression so many of us feel, but it’s not an easy journey.

Runaway Train is one of of Soul Asylum's greatest hits. It originally appeared on the album Grave Dancers Union which was released under the Columbia label in 1992 by Sony Music Entertainment Inc. It also appears as the eigth track on their greatest hits album, Black Gold: The Best of Soul Asylum.

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