The Girl on the Train
(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 reservations...it 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.