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.
I wonder if she is asking if she knows me, or something about me. My inability to communicate makes me just as much a mystery to them as they are to me. When we get on the train I walk forward to the low car, but she changes her mind. She turns and walks past me to the car behind which has higher seats and smaller windows which I don’t like. We look at each other as we pass. She has a doubtful or almost cross expression on her face. Is she getting into the other car because she doesn’t want to sit near me again? Is she intentionally avoiding me? Why? I’m on the train and we’re at Libna, leaving now toward Brežice. It is quiet on the train – no hordes of teenagers today. I think they get out of school later.
When we get to Brežice she will disappear again. She can’t be ill or sad, she was cheerful when talking to the others but not to me. The doubtful look was mine alone. I wonder what I might have done to annoy her — this person whose name I don’t know and to whom I have only ever spoken single syllables.
It is shortly after 7 pm at the Brežice train station. A group of loud drunks is here at the south end of the platform; I walk quickly past; she is here standing in the center as I pass. On the way to the WC I say “cer” to her and she says something in return but not the same greeting; I can’t tell what it was. She seemed normal. Used the urinous seatless WC, now the train is coming. I get on and sit down, it is one of the upper cars, I sit close to the doors. I don’t like these kind because they have WCs which stink in the summer.
I thought I saw her go into the next car ahead, away from me, and I really wonder what her problem is, but then I hear her sniffing behind me. I turn my head and it’s her. Sitting a row or two behind me. She is on the right side, I am on the left, just like before. Today was a pretty unproductive day, as far as the library is concerned, but I didn’t have to wait for any train; both times they arrived within 15 minutes. The drunks get on the train behind us, thankfully. We pull out of Libna. No one else is in the car, only her and me.
We are rolling on towards Krško. Gray speckled floor, the inside of these trains are airlinerish, mostly gray with a little teal. It is dark out, there are only specks of light flashing by us in the darkness. The canned voice announces the next station: Krško.
At Brestanica, she gets off the train first. I follow. Up the steps, then, unexpectedly, she pauses outside the train station; I can do nothing but go on. I go on quite a long way before I look back and see her light flickering a long way behind me. Either she doesn’t like me walking behind her, or she wants to see where I am going. Either way it is a neat trick, one I can’t counter. So I walk on ahead. At the highway I stop for a moment and look down. Should I wait there and smile? Somehow that’d be too ironic. I cross the road and go on. I can’t see if she goes up into the Trg. When I turn off on the road that leads to Stolovnik, I turn and see the blue light under the four chestnut trees.
I linger outside the shoe store. As I hear approaching footsteps I turn and walk toward home. She has seen me and knows where I turn now, though I wonder how she could not know it before. Another night without solving any mysteries.
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