I’m on an overnight train from Berlin to Malmö.
The sleeping car that had been reserved for me, number 204, is mysteriously absent tonight. Instead, the conductor adjusts my ticket and directs me to car 201. This is more than just a numerical upgrade but an upgrade to first class. There’s even a sink! You’d be surprised at how excited you get over the presence of a sink after several weeks of traveling.
I’m a bit torn up at the moment truth be told, and I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I’m on a train, in the dead of night and the only light is that which illuminates my computer screen. Behind the document I type on now is a landscape — a photo taken from a hill overlooking the majestic city of Budapest. Or at least I remember it being somewhat majestic … like most things, I’m not quite so sure anymore. You see, it’s the photograph peering back at me from the right side of the screen that holds my true attention. A photograph of a woman I haven’t seen in far too long.
Reality seeps in like the darkness, leaving me alone with the realization that I am alone, in this tiny first class compartment with nothing but the clacking of train wheels and my own beating heart to keep me company. The sink doesn’t seem so special now. The silver faucet glints back at me and then fades, as if realizing this.
For some people, the idea of love conjures up images of youthful cupids firing arrows of passion through the air striking their intended targets — that is to say, a ridiculously fantastical notion of an idea that really only exists in bedtime stories and fairy tales. For others, love brings pain, sadness, a yearning desire to forget the past and live a blissful love free future. Then there are still others who are testament to true love, or at least, the powerful presence of neurons in your brain firing in response to your body’s releasing of a chemical when la amour waltzes down the hall and into your life.
Whatever it is, whether chemical, pain in waiting, romantic notion, or cupid’s arrow, the simple truth is I’ve been struck.
Chemicals can’t explain away the heart’s longing. Can’t explain why we all too often do sudden, unexplainable things in the name of it. The door of my train compartment isn’t locked but I’m a prisoner. Not of this quaint, first class compartment mind you, but of the heart. And it won’t let me go no matter how hard I try.
The train rolls to a stop now, a German voice echoes down the tiny platform just outside my open window. No voice rises in response. Only silence. The train starts rolling once again and like that we’re off, as if we never really stopped at all.
Was there a reason behind the stop if no one got off, if no one changed? Is there a pattern the heart must follow or is love, like a train in Spain, unpredictable and often late on arrival? And if so, does the old adage “better late than never” apply or does love only blossom in the right conditions? At the right time?
Is it better to have never loved than to miss the connection to what the rest of your life could be without that hormonal infused delay? Or do unscheduled stops along the way help one to reevaluate?
Hurtling towards our planned destination does not give us much time to get out and look around at the stations we are missing. Whether it’s a career, a boyfriend, girlfriend, or past incident, racing towards what we think we want almost never, in the end, ultimately gives us what we want. Or at least that’s what I’ve observed up to now from the window.
What will the next station be? Do I want to know?
I close my eyes but I’m still moving, faster than ever. The wind whistles off the side of the metallic car just as the thoughts race through my head.
I open my eyes. A row of lights glimmer off the silver faucet signaling that we’ve stopped. I smile then, content to dream a little while longer.