The Slow Train

I find myself a window seat and settle in for the long journey to come. This train stops at every station. People get on. People get off. Everyone is smiling. No one is in a hurry. There is plenty of time to move around the carriages, to enjoy the adventure, to be happy. I look out of the window and notice a lake that has frozen over. Two small figures glide across it, their scarves streaming behind them like a picture on a postcard. I inhale the musty scent of the carriage and examine the worn, faded seats. I imagine those who were here before me, and those who will come. I turn my gaze inward. I ask myself how I spent so many anxious hours over the years just waiting to get off the train, that I didn’t let myself notice, inhale, examine or imagine anything at all. But now I understand. Taking the slow train isn’t a waste of time. It allows you time.

Introspection makes my head spin, so I make my way to the buffet car. Perhaps I will meet a smiling person with whom I can strike up an unhurried conversation. I know I am almost there because a whiff of sausage rolls and hot chocolate hits my nostrils. The conductor is standing by the coffee machine, waiting for his cappuccino. He drums his fingers on the counter while the waitress is caught up in a flurry of coffee beans, milk jugs and an industrial-sized machine. Another passenger bounds over to the counter, pushes in front of me and demands an almond piccolo: “Make it quick. I’m in a rush,” he barks at the waitress. He does not make eye contact with me, although I am looking right at him. He is not smiling.

I glance out of the window. The scenery is changing faster than I expected. We are already at the next stop, and now the next. This is confusing. Why is everything moving so fast? Why do I not get the time to enjoy the view? Why isn’t anyone smiling?

“Excuse me, Sir,” I ask the conductor. “I thought this was the slow train? We seem to be going incredibly fast.” The conductor looks up. His eyes are piercing.

“You’re in the wrong carriage then, love.”
“I don’t understand,” I say, hypnotised by his gaze.
He puts his coffee cup to his lips, throws his head back and takes a big gulp.
“Slow carriages are on the other end of the train.”
I blink, then shake my head, hoping this will help me understand his explanation. It doesn’t.
“How can they be different, on the same train?”
The conductor picks up his ticket machine.

“We’re all on the same train,” he chuckles. “But the journey you take is up to you.” He calls over his shoulder as he walks away, “Choose your carriage wisely!”

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, or actual events is purely coincidental but probably worth analysing. 🙂

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

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