Suitcase in hand, you head to the station. At the station, there is a great hustle and bustle; everyone is fighting to reach the booking window. New day, new people. An old man's pocket is picked. He starts to shout. You cast a look at his direction, but instantly regret it; he isn't just an ordinary old man. His colorless eyes don't even reflect light and make him look blind. In addition to this, he has a hunchback. You start to look away but your eyes fall on his hands, they are bloodied and wrinkled, scattered with lines. He starts running in your direction, but you move in feverish haste, anxious to get going. You zigzag around groups of people and notice, with some relief, that you have lost him.
Next on the scene, comes a group of young adults, all girls. The tallest one is fair-skinned, dressed in a plain white tee and khaki pants with minimal makeup. The second tallest is blonde, somewhat fragile, intelligent in expression. She is wearing a black tank top and beige capri pants. The third and the last one has sleek and chic strawberry blonde hair, her face caked in makeup. She is chewing gum, occasionally popping it. She looks at you and winks flirtatiously as if she knows you have been here all along. You feel your face flushed and thus, you quickly look away. Again!
You smell food and realize just how hungry you are. Quickly you move towards the source of the tantalizing aroma only to realize the seller is a poor vendor. "Do you want some samosas, bhai?" he smiles a crooked smile. You smile in return, not knowing that he just called you his brother and feel your pocket for the money, only to realize the horrifying truth: you forgot your wallet in the cab. Thankfully it didn't have much except for money, of course. Your smile instantly vanishes. The vendor notices your worry and speaks up, "It's okay, bhai. You can have the samosas for free," and he hands over to you not only the samosas but the chutney along with it too. He smiles his crooked smile again and leaves.
The train arrives. You proceed hoping to have a window seat, only to get pushed by the rowdy woman who is almost dragging her wailing son along with her. You start moving into the train again, only to get interrupted by the muffled giggles of the young girls you saw earlier. "Hi, I'm Zoe," the strawberry blonde speaks not realizing that she is blocking the way of numerous others behind her. She is fluttering her eyelashes all innocent-like, not knowing that now isn't the time to do so. It's your duty, therefore, to speak up. You clear your throat and she gets the signal. She stops staring at you and goes to sit with her friends. You notice the young man, sitting three paces away at his usual place, by the window. His hands full like always. Out of the blue, the man lifts his gaze and looks at you right in the eye. The gaze sends a chill down your spine and causes the hair on your neck to rise so you quickly look away. Again!
Once you are seated, there comes a hostess who offers you, your favorite fresh juice but you refuse it. Your mind keeps ticking as to why did you refuse it minutes after she leaves. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. But you don't get the answer. The woman on your left taps you gently on your shoulder. You ignore the tapping but rather focus on your brain's ticking. You get distracted again when the woman on your left taps you again, urgently this time. You look over at her, extremely irritated by her behavior, only to realize she is throwing up in a sickness bag ( she is maybe prone to motion sickness ). The bad smell nauseates you and you get up to sit somewhere else.
You are moving through the aisle, unable to find a vacant seat when you see her. Your heart skips a beat. Zita, you whisper. Those same ocean blue eyes. Her pale features obscured by knotty brown hair curled at the ends. She is smiling. Oh, that million-dollar smile you'd give anything for. She is dressed in a loose-fitting vintage dress and flat shoes. Mesmerized by her beauty, you forget that you aren't at home. Neither is this woman, Zita. Sighing, you move forward.
You grab a seat by the window.
The train switches tracks. The environment becomes uneasy: you hear the soft cry of a baby which gradually becomes loud and rhythmic. Suddenly a woman shouts, loud and clear. People get up to see the source of the shout and so do you. As expected, it is the same rowdy woman whom you had encountered earlier. You smirk and get going. But then reality slaps you on the face. You reminisce about the days with your cruel stepmother: you think about her sadistic pleasure in tormenting you, her vicious plans and you shudder.
This is God's way of showing you not to forget your past. You say a silent prayer and go to sleep.
The train stops. Everyone is rushing out to freshen up themselves but you don't move. Lazy brat, you can hear your step mom's voice again. Your eyelids droop and you try to go back to sleep. "I know that you aren't sleeping, only your eyes are closed," the scent of strawberry and mint fills the air and reminds you of Zita again! You stay still, pretending not to have heard the speaker. She taps her feet on the floor, and when you don't pay attention to her, the tapping intensifies. You smile even though your eyes are still closed. 'Well, I am going," and that is when you recognize the voice. It's Zoe, the strawberry blonde. You sit up straight. She smiles over her victory and that smile reminds you of Zita again. "Hello, I'm Zoe!" she says her name again. You want to say 'I know' but your tongue betrays you and all you manage is "Mm-hmm". Zoe says something and asks a question in return but you can't concentrate because your brain is switching tracks again. Clickety-Clack. Clickety-Clack...
The train arrives at its destination. Everybody is getting off the train but you don't move. Finally, everyone is gone. Then comes the conductor. "Nowhere to go?" he asks the same question he has been asking for the past three years. You nod the same way too. Without asking anything further, he leaves. And it's just you and the train. Nobody knows it, except for you and the conductor: it is in hope of finding Zita that you have been coming here, every day, for the past three years.
But, instead of Zita, it has always been you and the train.
You and the train.
You and the train.