Being a Pullman porter allowed me to accomplish two things: travel and earn enough money to help my beautiful mother. And while my love for trains and travel was in my blood, even the most ardent traveler needed a place to call home. Home for me was in Los Angeles with my mother Lily. I guess she was pleased that she didn’t have to worry about me running the streets or exposing myself to physical danger because she knew that the majority of my time was working on the train; it gave her a sense of comfort. At home I could relax and didn’t have the responsibility to serve anyone. Life at home was about me, my family, friends, and the potential bloom of love. I had been home with my mother for several days resting and now the wanderlust came over me. I needed to get out.
I shaved and dressed in my nice gabardine trousers, a crisp white shirt, and a clever fedora. Our apartment was small and when I came into the living room where my mother sat, she smiled. “You sho’ look handsome, son. Goin’ out on the town?”
I knew her well. The less information I gave her, the better. “Yes Ma’m,” I said, admiring my ability to suit up for a night of merriment.
My mother’s expression changed from contentment to stern. “You not goin’ round to see Helen are you?” she asked. I caught myself about to frown. Another reason mother liked me working on the train was that it kept me away from a young lady I liked named Helen. My mother didn’t approve of her because Helen had been seeing another fellow who was not a “proper” gentleman, as she considered me to be. News traveled fast, and word was that Helen had allowed this ‘improper man’ to seduce her. I smiled at my mother and went over to hug her. “Stop worrying ’bout me. You raised me right, didn’t you?” She narrowed her eyes at me. “John, be careful, you hear?”
I narrowed my eyes back at her and touched her chin. “Yes, Ma’m now stop your worrying,” I said, knowing I had no intention of staying away from Helen.