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This is material cut from my memoir in progress, Six Years in Slovenia.
Brestanica. I arrive at the train station later than I wanted, I meant to get up earlier. The waiting room was full and she was in it. I greeted the room with “dan” but no one greeted me in return. Whenever this happens, I can assure myself that I have kept my side of the social contract and that they are being the rude ones. It was as if she was ashamed to acknowledge my acquaintance in front of the other people. She would have greeted me if she had been alone. Maybe the sunglasses are a factor, but it is so stupid to pretend someone isn’t human because you cannot see their eyes.
This is material I have cut from my memoir-in-progress, Six Years In Slovenia.
I go to Brežice in the slush (I am there at noon, but it seems mystery girl no longer takes this train) go to the library until I am driven out by computer class at 5 pm.
I walk to the train station and mystery girl is not there yet. Another woman comes in, I greet her. She goes out and comes in again, I greet her again, not recognizing her. She asks me something in Slovene; I have to ask her to speak English. She asks me in English, do I have something to read? I have to tell her no.
Then she asks me all kinds of questions about myself and I have to answer them. This takes a while and during it, some other people come in and mystery girl is one of them; I greet her, but I don’t think she hears.
This is material I have cut from my memoir, Six Years in Slovenia.
Today is December 18, 2009 and I am sitting behind the mystery girl on the seven o’clock train from Brežice.
I did not greet her when I came in the čakalnica; somehow it was too full of people and awkward.
She glances behind her. I have the feeling she is looking at me. I am awful in my creosote-stained coat and greasy hair; I don’t want to be social. Her hair is long and part of it has escaped the banana clip it’s in. She is trying to fix it without a mirror using only the window’s reflection.
I smell like woodsmoke. It’s not unpleasant, just peculiar and strong.
It is bitterly cold. So cold. At home the house is freezing even with all radiators ablaze. So cold I have a permanent ice cream headache. Krško. Brestanica is the next stop. I have the feeling I won’t be solving any mysteries tonight either.
Some girl in tight pants who was groping her boyfriend at Brežice gets off the train with us. For a little while there are three of us walking up the dark road. I am annoyed at the in-love girl and her flashy black fake-alligator bag. But she steps off to wait for someone and it’s just the two of us again.
She is so far ahead of me that I can hardly see her. I lose sight of her among the trees.
She doesn’t wait at the corner. I think she has turned off somewhere. But then I see her again, a little blur among the distant trees. I am so far behind that I see her all the way up the street before I turn off in my direction. I see the blue Christmas lights – then I turn off my way. I feel bad for not greeting her; I should have.
Today is January 15, 2010.
I am at the train station in Brestanica at noon. I expected the girl to be here, but she isn’t. There is only ten minutes to the train. Now I wonder if she will still come back on the 7 o’clock train from Brežice as usual; I wonder where she is and why her schedule has changed. I am disappointed. I had been looking forward to this and now it has not come to pass. I feel sort of abandoned, although that is absurd. An old lady comes in, I say “dober dan” to her. “Krško povratna,” she says to the stationmaster in a strong clear voice and collects her ticket. Men, clad in a fluorescent yellow-green safety vests, mill about outside; they work for the railway. The logs I see being cut are loaded onto train cars and taken elsewhere.
Five minutes to the train. I still have faint hopes of her coming. Someone squeaks open the door and I look up but it is not her. I am too surprised to greet the newcomer. It is not my nature to greet random strangers but Slavs find this unfriendly. Greeting them, however, opens the possibility that they will chat to you – Slovenes are chatty, particularly the women – then will come the awkward moment when one must confess one’s ignorance of the language and ask whether the querent speaks English instead, which is usually not the case, so the attempt at conversation dies out in an awkward silence and we both feel rejected.
Just arrived at station, five minutes to train. She is there, I see her wavy head through door of the čakalnica but I don’t go in. For some reason I want to keep avoiding, don’t want awkward conversation. But I will try to greet her tonight.
They announce the train; it’s on the first track, not the second. I walk back to the čakalnica and she is coming out. She sees me and as I walk toward her, greets me with “čer” which throws me off a little but as I was still debating where and when to greet her, but I reply the same and we scramble to get on the train. She is not sitting anywhere near me. I like to sit in the down car, she seems to like sitting in the upper seats. I don’t know if she is in this car or not – we are still sitting in Brežice. Now a whistle blows outside and we are away. She and I are the only people who get on at Brežice.
Slovenian words: čakalnica: waiting room dober dan: greeting povratna: return ticket čer: a short version of ‘good evening’
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This is material that I have cut from my memoir in progress, Six Years in Slovenia.
11 December 2009
Brestanica train station.
A scowling woman with Kool-Aid hair sits outside. I didn’t greet her because she looks so mean. I step inside, mystery girl is there. I greet her, she says “dan” back to me, her voice is a half-congested gurgle plus she doesn’t seem all that keen, or maybe it’s just my imagination. Nevertheless I am sitting outside, it is cloudy but bright, not raining but grey steel sky to the southwest – might mean rain, so I brought an umbrella – I walked fast; 15 minutes to spare before train.
So now I wonder why she sounded reluctant and why she didn’t smile as brightly as before – Maybe I’m just being oversensitive, but then if I don’t trust my intuition, I might miss out on some subtle message. Birds are having casual irregular conversations in the trees; now the train is coming.
Mystery girl comes out of the waiting room, chats to the evil looking woman outside, their incomprehensible words are like the birds chirping – then she crosses the track to platform 2. I follow, keeping my distance because we are waiting for the same train.
The cleaning lady comes also, a little later. I greet her and she greets me back in a friendly way but we do not chat; but she walks down to mystery girl and there is a flurry of chatter between them. Cleaning lady asks mystery girl something to which she answers “Na vem” – I don’t know.
This is material I have cut from my memoir in progress, Six Years in Slovenia.
December 3, 2009 – Dobova
There is ten minutes to the train so I should go…we will see whether mystery girl takes the Brežice train on Thursdays. I bet not.
I was wrong: she gets out of the front of the train (a whole other train) she looks at me sidewise, I know she is surprised to see me there, because I did not get on at Brežice. Ha! I went to Zagreb! So I got on at Dobova!
The walk goes much as before, same route: she goes up into the Trg, while I do not; she paused a little at the end of the Trg, but not so long this time because I was not so far behind as last time, after this she walked a while on my side, same irregular way of walking in the road/walking on different sides, she crossed away at the same point as before, but when I turned at Cesta na ribnik, she was close enough to see. So she knows where I turn. I glanced behind: she did not follow.
What an oddly pleasant little intrigue this is. It’s almost like having a friend, only one that doesn’t corner you with tiresome chatter: in this pattern of walking, of swinging movement in the matrix of road and night and falling leaf and running water, that is more eloquent than words. It is like a kind of dance where we each play our part, and nature too, and we react to one another and it, all improvised and wild.
If I ever got to know her, this could be ruined entirely.