No. 9 The Longest Ride: Prague-Budapest

I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.” ~ Anna Funder
Snapshot 9. Not the Nicholas Sparks Movie
   I do like trains. I do like the rhythm, the suspension, the destination in mind, the idea of traveling the countryside, the sights one wouldn’t otherwise see. But. The train ride from Prague to Budapest was. So. Long. Everybody in my cabin had come and gone, multiple times, the seat beside me occupied by at least three different people at one point or another. The girl who had been there since Prague got up and said her goodbyes at the train station in Slovakia. The last one to leave, and then it was just me in the cabin, still two more hours until Budapest.
  But I enjoyed seeing the people come and go, guessing at their stories, wondering who they were meeting at the station, or who they were leaving. We only will cross paths once, I figured. An hour or two of our lives spent in the same place, a brief moment in the span of time. The elderly couple who had waved and waved at their daughter and granddaughter from the window of our cabin, the grandmother wiping tears from the corners of her eyes as the little girl with blond pig-tails and a chipped front tooth bounced up and down outside the train, waving and blowing kisses. Her mother stood a few paces away, holding her red pocketbook and looking up at the darkening, gray sky, the first rain-drops falling, leaving dark, round spots on the dirty industrial brown-gray platform. The little girl, oblivious to the rain, waving until the train is out of sight, her white sandals and knee-high socks standing bright against the graying background. The couple settled in, nodded at me, and I returned the gesture – slight shy smiles exchanged. And then a Bon Voyage as they left the cabin, five train stops later. The middle-age woman, dressed in business-casual, who slept soundly and exhaustedly the entire time, waking up just before her train stop, a sudden jolt-to-reality.
    And the countryside. Yellow fields of flowers, poignant, painfully beautiful in the rain and dark stormy gray sky. The streaked ashen silos, the rickety farmhouses with crumbling red and dusty yellow roofs, pine green trees, waving in the wind and the rain. I went to the dining car halfway through the train ride, the red-striped booths and white tablecloths bringing back memories of the Polar Express. Maroon curtains hung from the windows, drawn up into the sides of the frames, the tops billowing just slightly out to capture a hushed intimacy, a peaceful quiet, as people sat sipping their coffees, reading the newspaper, working on laptops. A business man sitting to the right and across from me frowned at the crossword puzzle in front of him, pencil behind his ear, as the phone beside him buzzed dramatically, demanding distraction. And so I had a cappuccino, paying with my last few Euros, counting out the coins one by one, praying I had enough, while the waitress waited patiently. I sat and watched the scenery go by and tried to memorize everything about this moment in time, suspended between two places – a destination in mind, but time, so much time to get there.
“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”  ~ Robert Frost 

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