Conversations on a Train

En route, from California to Oregon……

Sitting in a teetering dining car in the early morning light.  Too tired to form concrete thoughts, and still bewildered by the surreal images that danced in my head in between sleeping and waking in my seat the night before.  I peer out my window, past the vase of plastic flowers and fog on the window to the grazing cows and telephone poles, all flashing by my window like a quickly playing slide show.

I am joined by Paty, a retiree traveling from Mexico to Seattle to see a man whom she has been speaking with over the internet for years, but has never met in person.  I enjoy listening to Paty, her canter is off beat and she is strange, but kind.  She wears a black sweatshirt with elaborate white font across the chest “Queen Elizabeth Cruises.”  She points to her breast and explains that she has seen the entire world on cruise lines, and once she finds out that I am an artist, Paty suggests that I try and get a job teaching art on cruise ships.  Paty has been married three times and tells me she has trouble letting men into her heart.  She likes to paint and is writing a children’s book, and says that she is queasy from the train but orders three pancakes with a side of bacon and a cup of coffee with cream.

Paty tells me about her life in Mexico, and her cheap rent in Playa Del Carmen.  She takes a pen from her pocket and writes down an occasional word on the paper tablecloth now ringed with coffee mug stains and syrup.  Playa Del Carmen she writes.  “I only pay $600 a month!” $600, she writes.  “I have started taking Spanish classes” Spanish joins the group of random words forming between us.  “They call me Pattita.”  Patitta.  I look at Paty, and wonder how the two of us have ended up eating breakfast together, in this small sliver of our lives, in between destinations.  I think of our contrasting lives and how once I leave this dining car, I will never see her again.  As she continues to talk, peering over her dark sun glasses at me, I realize the peculiarity of two strangers sharing details of their lives with each other over stale coffee, as the landscape shifts from flat prairie, to snow coated forest, to luminous fall trees to large cities…

As I left breakfast, and found a seat in the observation car to better view the altering landscape, I observed strangers all around me, sitting as comfortably with each other as if they were old friends.  Sipping coffee, knitting, resting their socked feet on the window ledge, and conversing about where they have been and where they will soon be.  When the train screeched to a haunt from station to station, I saw them depart one by one and go their separate ways.  To disperse back into the world like flecks of grass blowing in the wind.

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