I've been riding the commuter train for 5 years now. For the first two and a half years, I sat by myself usually sleeping or randomly having a conversation with someone every few months. I was just another commuter.
Then I met Ray.
On no particular spring day I happened to run late leaving work and wanted to catch the last express train to my station. Seats usually filled up fast, especially what people like me considered "good seats", seats on window side (side without the sun preferred for optimum sleeping in a commuter car) or individual seats on the upper deck.
Then there is the rail, a section of seats on the upper deck where you stare awkwardly at the person directly across the aisle who suffers the same last minute plight you are in. That or being squished by everyone else on the same side trying to squeeze as many people as physically possible. Every stop you hope your quiet mirrored buddy or oversized, luggage happy sidekick is reaching their destination.
This non-particular day I ended up on the rail sitting next to a girl I happened to recognize from my building. I had never actually spoken with her though so I figured it would be quiet ride home.
Dozing, I am suddenly awoken by a booming voice spewing something similar. "I am totally digging this bitch out <something else that many would consider inappropriate > and that morning I got up feeling great, she's naked sleeping on the bed and I went to the store made us some Belgium Waffles… <insert 3 other somewhat non-standard breakfast item> and brought her breakfast in bed. Then dug her out two more times and sent her ass home. Guess what! She's coming over this weekend! I've got a whole menu planned <huge menu> (changes his voice) and I'm totally going to stick it in her ass this time, maybe get a donkey punch in there. Anyways! My party I was thinking about cooking <some huge ass exotic menu> … What do you guys think".
Now, some of you may be wondering why I went to such an extend to replay the details of what he said. I could have just summed it up as something most would consider incredibly vile and confusing. I sat up from my position and looked over at him with a confused (and somewhat shocked) face. Before I get a chance to say anything a commuter across the aisle sees me and begins laughing uncontrollably. Ray stops his conversation and asks said commuter (now known as Mike) what's so funny.
Mike looks at me, "This guy! If you could have seen his face, it was priceless!".
Ray turns to me. "What's so funny?", he inquires.
"That was an amazing web of extremely opposite thoughts that I'm trying to figure out how you put those words and phrases together. I am simply mesmerized. It's like Howard Stern, I can't wait to see what you say next. Please go on…", I respond. Several people laugh.
Over the next 45 minutes I join in various parts of the conversation that are occurring between everyone on both sides of the rail. Ray continues to spew a number of other obscenities that would make a nun cry but no one is offended by it, they just laugh. I came to learn that this particular car used to be the 'bar car', which was when the commuter line literally had a bar you could buy beer and wine while riding the train. The bar no longer exists but you can still bring alcohol on board. These were regulars. Ray being one of the longest.
As we were approaching the stop before mine Ray waits for a small lull in the remaining conversation and states, "Well everyone! It's been a slice! Have a great night!" . He then leans over to me and says "You should join us up here more often.", gets up and walks out (not before taunting at least one person as they are leaving).
The next day I made sure I left work early to get a good seat with the exception this time I was heading to the same seat from yesterday on the third car rail. I was the first up there, which made me kind of look like an over excited prom date. Screw it. As minutes rolled by the same crowd from yesterday trickled in, some recognized me from the previous day and struck up conversation. Ray comes in, bringing a case of beer, hands it out to a number of people, including me. I decline but it's because I don't really like drinking (I do on occasion but for the most part don't like it, that's just me). This conversation led to other vices we had in common, we will leave it at that.
Every day I continue to make sure I'm on this train, in this car, on the rail. At one point Ray asks if I want to stop by his house after work and hang out for a little bit. I tentatively agreed even though I kind of didn't want to. I stated I needed clearance from the tower (my wife) hoping she would say she was exhausted with the kids and really needed me to come home.
She did not. "No! Go have fun! I've got it covered, my mom was here so it was a good day!", the message read.
Shit. Well that didn't work and I'm not a good liar. Fuck it, I'll go. I sit in my truck attempting to remember the address he gave me. I text him, "513?"
Seconds later I get a response. "thirty one" Yes, it was spelled out. Moments later I pulled into the driveway to see the skull covered Yaris. I got out, we went inside.
Then I met Ray.
DSM IV may classify this as Disassociated Personality Disorder, or multiple personality disorder to others. Cybil to the rest of you. Don't worry, it's not.
In private, Ray may be his boisterous and somewhat crude self but it's not as often or as attention getting. He tends to listen and ask questions. Sometimes he interrupts with his opinions but they are not necessarily wrong and you can just stand up to him, he will listen. In these intimate settings you learn a lot about him. He loves animals, people, and his friends. He asks for nothing in return but friendship, and even then no expectation of the same level of friendship. As he will tell you, he wants to live a life of altruism. He does.
Ray will always be there for you if you need it. Help move some heavy shit? Ray will be there. Help with governmental process? Ray will be there. Help deal with an uncomfortable situation? Ray will be there. Need an ear to just listen or shoulder to cry on. Ray will be there.
Over the years I've gotten to know him better. We are often asked on the train ride home why we have such crude and sometimes offensive conversations. Ray will say there is no HR between Union and the end of the line. I like to call it our "aristocratic behavior time". A time to unwind and forget about everything proper in the world, just say shit you want to but too afraid to. Ray empowers you to do so and as a result I go home every night a little happier. A little more relaxed. A little more prepared to take on the next regardless of the previous. For two hours a day regular life didn't exist. For all intents and purposes it was Ray's world and we all loved it.
Today comes with a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Ray on the 517. He's moving on to a new job, success, and a bright future. That is what makes it bittersweet. My own selfishness wishes he was with us forever. He gives people the confidence to be themselves and will defend you to anyone that dares silence you. He fears very little, especially being politically correct. He has become a symbol of the 517.
Ray's legacy will never be replaced, even by Canadians with bad hair, but will always be remembered. Thanks for the great ride, the great conversation, and being one of the best friends someone could ever ask for. You will be missed more than I think you will ever realize.
Godspeed faggot. ;)
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