Ticket To Ride, Chapter 14: People are fucking beautiful…

Night TrainFourteen

My mind was a mess as the previous week had ended with a piece of unwanted wisdom. After seven half-assed hours of sleep from midnight in Paris to the Spanish border, a German, “Hein” (name given), went off to find the nearest market to get some bread and cheese. He said a bit of wine would be good for the cold that I hadn’t been able to shake since Paris. Having reluctantly allowed him to share the train compartment (second-class, no bed), I had decided that my earlier suspicion (train robber) of him was most likely unfounded since I had slept most of the distance thus far traveled and nothing material was missing. He’s all right, I thought, having also played a few hands of Gin with him.

Hein returned with a crumpled paper bag which resembled his slept-in clothing. Our nine o’clock for Madrid departed.

In his brief search he’d located two bottles of cabernet and a package of vanilla wafers. Before reboarding the train, he pulled a syringe from his coat pocket and emptied it through the cork and into the wine. I had resigned myself to strict frugality until my arrival in Madrid, so I was happy to oblige his offer to share this paupers’ feast. I rubbed my red eyes as he passed the bottle.

“Here’s to gin rummy,” I said.

“Gin rummy,” he replied smiling.

We drank from tin camping cups and drifted through the Pyrenees and the Basque countryside.

My eyelids were too-soon heavy and I declined another hand of Gin.

Stretching out on the scuffed and stained, avocado-green bench, with my arm through the straps of my rucksack and my money belt beneath me, seeing snow-capped mountains passing slowly by, and thinking free thoughts, I fell, into a well, of sedated sleep.

… in nightmarish nocturnality

a thieving Arab rushed in dreams

seeking…

I awoke again, my eyes burning as the sun threw its last spark. The railbrakes screeched as the train slowed into Chamartain station. All thumbs, I attempted to organize my pack and my self. Untied laces… unzipped zippers… a missing money belt… camera… passport… travelers checks… all gone… vanished with the fork-tongued German. I tore the crucifix from my neck… Christian, existential, Christianexistential, bodhisattva?

Under the hazy luminescence of the overhead lamp sat an unopened bottle of cabernet. I picked it up and left the train in search of further sleep, still feeling the effects of an unknown drug; sweet, hushed, narcotic night.

I dragged my gear to a nearby hostel and slept another eight hours (a total of twenty-four in the past thirty-six). I felt cold and hollowed out and hungry and longed for the warmth of a woman.

“People are fucking beautiful,” I said under my breath.

And before passing out again, I wrote:

 

… and I’m trying to get through

with bad omens, circumstances,

dreams that won’t permit

me to sleep in peace

to travel unhindered

through changing accents

tastes and smells

the recurring dream that tells

me to return

before I’m rendered eternal time,

in limbo,

without grasp,

gasping…

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