The night train

I cannot remember how long I’ve been in here. The monotonous sound of the train wheels turning incessantly and hitting those tiny separations between rail segments. Lights of forgotten villages flashing across the window. Travelers with faces emaciated by tiredness and loneliness, who move like sleepwalkers through the train, looking for a seat that’s always at the other end of the train.

These old rails made up of segments are a thing of the past. They’ve replaced them all over the world with continuous tracks, welded together seamlessly so that the trains seem to be levitating at high speed. But in this corner of the world, the old rails are not likely to be replaced any time soon. The rhythmic sound of the wheels, regular as a well-calibrated pendulum, provides structure to an otherwise undefined time.

If I would make an effort, I guess I could remember where I am heading. I could remember, at least, why I got on this train. But right now, after one more beer can falls empty on the floor, hitting the other empty cans with a sharp metallic sound, I don’t feel like it.

All the things leading up to this moment are conveniently blurry, wrapped up in protective layers of alcohol, lack of sleep, and darkness. The train carries me with it and there’s nothing left behind, not even the night. There’s just one big mechanical animal breathing heavily through the darkness, projecting a cone of light forward and a cone of forgetfulness backward.

Night lights outline the contours of a surreal landscape. Distant, isolated orange lights of outcast dwellings. Dimmed lights of villages where children with pink cheeks are dreaming of snow, sleigh, and chocolate, still far from the moment when they will leave their parents behind and head into the greyness of adulthood. And then the short-lived orgy of lights that comes up every now and then, with every city along the way.

A nocturnal map of a weird land, bearing only a remote resemblance with the official maps and daytime descriptions of the region.

I don’t know what time it is and, even if I knew, it would not make any difference. My body feels like it’s early morning. There’s a special quality to being tired at 4 am. Mixed brain signals crashing into each other. Exhaustion and wakefulness. I’m out of alcohol and out of sorts.

Things slowly come into focus, like the contours of a landscape coming out of the fog. I am here. Here’s the right arm. Here’s the hand. Here are the contours of my face. I am on the night train to the small town in Transylvania where my father was born. It’s the 1st of November. I exist.

The second part of this is available here.

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