It starts with me. Thats how she would begin.
She hated talking about herself. And being in the centre of attention was something she would rather avoid. She preferred the background. Being not visible, that was her favourite description if you would ask her about herself. No I am not good at that, leave the others go and do it. With the sweetest smile which made you melt on the spot. She had that innocence about her which made you feel squeezy inside with an unimaginable urge to hug her and make her sink in your arms and covering her in the in the safeness of your embrace. She had that around her. With that small face with the fine lines under her eyes which became very fragile when she looked at you. Always with the head tilted slightly towards the ground and her eyes wide opened towards you. You just wanted to protect that little person behind this awkward outfit which seemed thrown together in patterns and colours.
I met her a few years ago. Yeah it sounds really typical but I met her on the train station. I was about to go on a trip to Dublin where I would meet some old college friends and I was not in the best mood. Yeah of course it is great to meet but then they were all in typical lives which you expect in my age. They had family or were about to create one. Had these little semi detached houses outside of the city, the dog, the cat, the two cars… oh how I looked forward to THAT one . Me in my 30s hardly had a any career or even a clear direction, which people usually have in college times. After finishing the studies everybody went off to follow their dreams. If it was in the big company they volunteered or did their work experience already or even over the big pond towards an even more promising future. Mostly Australia, Canada or even just towards exciting cities in Europe.
In the last year, just before the big Exam, my mother fell ill and as, OF COURSE my older siblings had their own life, it was up to me to take care of my dear Mother. It was an exhausting time. Exam stress and constant commuting between Dublin and Kerry.
But I made it. And ended up after College taking care full time of my Mother. Of course I loved my Mum. She was a lovely lady who had surrendered her all to her family and it was a given that I would take care of her. But sometimes in moments, when the daily routine quieted down it sneaked up again in me. I would have loved to have a choice. But I never had. So you can imagine how motivated I felt traveling to Dublin now to meet all these aspiring new families with promising careers and their “perfect” family lives.
And also it was not the greatest day either. Well I guess a normal dull Irish day. Grey all day, the chilly air creeped into your system and not one bit of sun all day. And me standing on a small Train Station in Kerry.
As it was a Friday afternoon it was was quite busy on the platform and I killed time with letting my imagination go wild where they all would be travelling while I was trotting up and down just to keep warm.
The people with me waiting for the train were mostly gathered in groups chatting and laughing and.. yeah I must say I felt lonely. Again.
But its not about me. I wanted to tell you how I met her. Her, the fragile little person, muffled up in the oversized coat which had seen better days. With the sweetest and most innocent face I had seen in a long time. Considered that I was mostly locked in with my Mother who was quite ill at that stage and the daily trips to the small shops around the Village, it was still quite obvious that this coat was fairly worn down.
So I felt quite thankful to come across a person who also was standing quite lost on the platform and I smiled at her. That is the funny thing. I would never just smile at someone but she was different. There was something about her which just drew me, nearly pulled me into her presence. A few smiles were thrown back and forth and we ended up sitting next to each other on the train. We started exchanging a few words but as I mentioned at the start she did not like to talk about herself. Or talk at all. So it was like I had to drag every word out of her. But I don’t know what it was. There was a feel of intensity around her. I would not say that I am a person who is overly responsive for that kind of thing, but I just was not able to get away from her. It felt strange and almost unreal that to every question about her I got either this sweet smile with these blue icy eyes which had me in their grip. Or a flusterly Yes or No which faded off with the rattling, metal noise of the train puffing on the tracks. And after a while I could not decide if I was terrible bored by her seemingly lack of interest, or simply tired of someone who was just so dreary as a travelling companion especially. And still…
After a while tiredness came to take over and I was kind of relieved that I had a reason to turn my head away for a snooze and lean it on the cold glass window. This being the only train this day to Dublin without any change over I felt comfortable enough after a few comforting bends and whistles of the train to just close my eyes and leave myself drift off to sleep. The last thing I was aware of was the steady noise of the girl next to me breathing and a distant silent chatter of the other passengers in the carriage.
I don’t know how long I had been sleeping but it must have been a while as it seemed to have started to get dark. I loved Irish Trains. They are very comfy because they huff along and take forever to reach anywhere. And that funny enough has quite a relaxing effect.
When I first opened my eyes all I could see were some dark shapes of trees zooming by and a few vague lights in the distance. I rubbed my eyes and yawned. I was a bit astonished as it seemed to be very quiet around me. But as it seemed evening already I didn’t give it anymore attention. Still not completely out of the heaviness of my sleep, I stretched my stiff limbs a bit and turned around in my seat. We must be near Dublin now I thought and turned my head a bit more to ask my new friend next to me. But I don’t know what it was, something had changed. Everything seemed so quiet and also very blurry. The dull lights on the ceiling of the cart looked smudgy and didn’t give any brightness to the space. I also shivered a bit. I blamed it on the fact that I had slept quite a while and that it was natural to wake up and be cold. But it was different. I rubbed my eyes again and turned my head to see how the girl with the sweet smile was doing. But when my eyes met her, everything seemed fuzzy.
Everything around me had gone grey, darkish and there was a freezing breeze in the air. When I looked at my neighbour, all I could see was a hazy shape of a person. What had happened. I started to feel uncomfortable. I whispered to her: Are you ok? What has happened here?” But she didn’t seem to hear me. Or even notice me at all. I repeated my question a bit louder but she didn’t move a bit. I reached out my arm to touch her on her shoulder but somehow I was not able to.
Fear now really started to creep up in me and I began wondering where we are. I turned my head again to the cold window which had been starting to mist up and and stared out in the dark night until my eyes hurt. But even the train had gained an enormous speed and seemed to race along the tracks. No lights, no shapes of trees, no roads, just pure thick black darkness. I had no idea where we were or what had happened. I felt my limbs starting to shake and nervousness grab my entire body. Once more I tried to figure out what was wrong in the carriage and what had happened while I was sleeping. Fearfully I lifted myself up in my seat and stared in the front and back of the carriage. But it was all blurry and grey around me and I could not see clear at all. All I could sense was was this cold, nearly freezing air. All of a sudden the train came to a violent halt and it nearly threw me back in my seat. The next thing I heard then was enormous screeching which seemed to burst my eardrums. Naturally I tried to protect my ears with pressing my bare hands on them. The noise was so horrific, it went through every bit of my being. I almost started screaming. I had reached the point where I was ready to panic. Then with one big hollow bang everything went dark and in near terror I stared towards my seat neighbour. The fragile innocent girl with the sweet smile. The next thing I noticed was that she suddenly stood up in her seat. She squeezed herself out into the aisle and slowly put one foot in front of the other towards the exit of the carriage. The last thing I could hear was the opening of the heavy metal train door. Silence. A dark shape slid down the steps onto the train tracks. Then she ran out into the dark night clutching something shiny in her hand…