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.
Today is December 4, 2009 and I am at the train station in Brestanica and she is here, sniffling; I greeted her on the way in, and in the blur of her face I saw the flash of teeth. How odd and surreptitious it feels to be sitting only a few meters (I’m trying to be more European) away from her and writing about her: it feels like I am getting away with something. She said something to the stationmaster that I could not understand except for “enosmer”. She is sniffling, and just stifled a sneeze; I don’t know what to say when people sneeze in Slovenia – so I am glad she did not go through with it, or I would have appeared rude. I look like hell today, with flat greasy hair. I didn’t wake up in time to take a bath. This weekend I must clean the cat box as well as the apartment, and myself; she is looking in my direction, I feel so self conscious when she does that, that questioning, searching look. I still have my sunglasses on; it’s a foggy day, but with a lot of glare. I feel a little safer in them even though you can see my eyes through them.
She is rocking a little back and forth; a strange habit that some mentally ill people have, and I wonder if her fascination with me is some kind of subconscious sympathetic response, a recognition of a common abnormality, a sense of being mutually isolated.
I feel the tickling pressure of a sneeze building. I try like hell to suppress it. I know she would say whatever Slovenes say when you sneeze and it would be a learning experience: but it would also open a conversation possibly and I don’t want that. I don’t want to break the spell, somehow. Being too close to people makes me dislike them, my mind snags on some exposed nail, everything tears.
She is sitting with crossed legs, her knee pointing toward me, left leg over right – body language says that the foot points where a person wants to go, which means she wants to go out the door. Sometimes body language doesn’t get things right, though she turns toward me whenever I move; I keep looking away from her every time.
The train comes, it was the driver who can’t seem to brake. He stops the train halfway to Krsko, with the back car barely accessible to the platform, and both she and I hurry to get it. She gets on first, it is one of those cars where you have to climb up little stairs. She sits on the left, I take the only other open seat which is right across from her. So there we sit, all the way to Brežice. I can’t tell if she is looking at me or not. I hear her sniffing. When the conductor comes we hand him our tickets, hers and mine only inches apart.
At Brežice I delay and delay getting up because I want to see where she goes, but she doesn’t get up. Finally I go to the door and she follows right behind me. When we get off she turns a different way and I lose her.
The girl has just come walking around the corner and goes into the heated waiting room. I haven’t realized it is her so I don’t look up from my writing. Painting, I need to get busy painting, don’t have time for any complicated matters of the heart. What I look like matters nothing to the canvas, what a relief it is to lay aside my heavy, battered armor, the mask I put on for the world, and be myself freely. I don’t really wonder what will happen tonight; it’s already formed a pattern. I think I know.
It is the usual pattern. She walks really quickly and doesn’t look back. She doesn’t wait at the corner, but she sees me as she is coming down she knows that I am there. What a bizarre pattern of walking in the street, then the sidewalk, then crossing to my side, always at the same point. When she crosses back I notice it’s in front of Telsat – a dog lives there; does she cross because she’s afraid of it? The dog is not outside tonight though. She crosses to my side at the same point, at the four chestnuts.
I turn off at my street. She doesn’t glance back. She seems stressed, maybe angry about something. When I get on the train, the second train was closer so I got on that one; it was not the one she got on so there was no way I could sit near her. She was a little surprised. But I wasn’t avoiding her, that door was just closer.
Some night I will not go home; I will walk to Senovo and that will give me an excuse to follow her and see where she lives.
Read the other entries in this series.
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