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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