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The Girl on the Train

by Laura
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

It seemed like forever to a 12 year old, but in reality the train ride from Naples, Italy to Salzburg, Austria is about 15 hours. To me though it seemed like heaven. That is to say it seemed to last forever, which is exactly what I wanted. It was like being in heaven to me, you know where you live for eternity?

Everything that I needed or wanted was there in my little compartment. Clothes, books, toothbrush, sandwiches-check, check, check. I decided that this is what snails must feel like carrying their home on their backs. There was no rush to go anywhere, no traffic to worry about, no buses to run to catch, no plugged ears from changes in air pressure, no hotel lobbies to be bored in, as my father confirmed was just me and my family (whom I successfully ignored) holed up for a very long time.

In those days, some 35 years ago, the train windows actually opened, and I spent the day standing at the window, my arms resting on the window rim, the wind rushing past my face. The most wonderful scenery sped by me as I watched from my metal cocoon.

Not for me the daily toil of the farmers, as they walked behind their cows in their fields. Not for me the boring monotony of hanging laundry to dry, or walking home from the local market, carrying plasic bags laden with produce in each red, chapped hand. I was alone in my world...looking on at the live canvas of art before me.

It all seemed a bit surreal to me at the time. I was amazed that at any given moment, all over the world, people are living their lives and it has nothing to do with me. The stuff of life is the same wherever you go, we all want and need the same things: food, clothing, shelter, love.

Standing at the window on that train journey, the Alps as the backdrop for the drama of these villagers left imprints on my mind that I have till this day. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was when I fell in love, on that train from Naples, to Salzburg.

I don't know what nationality he was, I dont even know what country we were in at the time, as my beloved and I never exchanged a word or a sentence or a kiss. My beloved and I had a much more meaningful and heart wrenching exchange. We exchanged a wave. Oh, but never a wave as that, such passion and devotion in the casual flick of his wrist. That innocent gesture contained all the love in the world!

We were not constrained by the tedium of language or get-to-know-you questions. They were not necessary. He was standing at the cross roads of the train track, next to his bicycle. He was waiting for the train to pass so that he could cross. And there was me, looking at him from my spot by the window, and throwing caution to the wind and since he would never see me again...I waved.

He waved back, and my heart did a somersault. He WAVED BACK! Surely he thought I was the most beautiful creature, for why would he wave, if he did not think so?

He didnt care if my hair was plastered to my head from the force of wind speeding past at 80mph, he didnt care if I was a bit plump, had'nt brushed my teeth that morning, or for that matter changed my clothes. He waved back! and that's all I needed to know. I wonder if he thinks of me still, whenever he waits for a train to go by so that he can continue on his journey. I wonder if he thinks of me as "that girl on the train?" Probably.

Comments for The Girl on the Train

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Sep 11, 2010
Children on a train
by: Anonymous

My sister and I went into a Home for Girls when my parents divorced. For the Christmas holidays my mother used to send us to her older sister who lived on a farm about 600km away. We each had to wear our names on a SAR board around our neck and the train inspector kept an eye on us.

The train was a slow train - the milk train that picked up all the large metal milk churns left on the dieings by local farmers. It took over 12 hours to get from Durban to Breyton. Patty and I have such happy memories of the train journey and our holidays on the farm. Can you imagine sending a four year-old and a 7 year-old on a train by themeselves these days!!

Sep 11, 2010
Memories of train travel
by: Leyla

What a wonderful story, Laura!

I was a tiny tot when I took my first train trip, too young to remember, but I'll never forget the overnight train from Paris to Madrid when I was a child - that's gone now in favor of high-speed trains... in those days, if I'm not mistaken, it took at least a day and you had to change at the border because the train tracks were of different sizes in Spain and France.

I remember a pop band on the platform, long-haired young men surrounded by drum boxes and guitar cases... how I wished I was a singer going off on tour! I spent the rest of the journey walking around the train car (we were in the same one) peeking at them from a distance, so impressed. The beauty of the train was the endless movement, the luxury of time, being able to walk back and forth and spy on the objects of my curiosity.

Although most of them have lost the romance of open windows, blowing wind, and lengthy journeys, I still love trains...

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