I rest my head on the window and watch the scenery go by, it’s nothing but dry brown bush, this could be a metaphor my life; sitting on the inside and watching life go by with nothing spectacular to see. I’m not sure why I’d decided to take the train, it would have been faster to fly but I’d booked it on a whim with ideas of “finding myself” though all I’ve done is stare between a blank screen and the passing dullness. I’m a writer, I’m supposed to be able to write, words should flow from my mind and out through my fingers like a river rushing towards a waterfall but instead I’ve hit a massive block and can’t even come up with a sentence never mind a full paragraph. I’m stuck on a plot line mostly. My last book is still fresh in my mind with characters I became so attached to, that I’m having a hard time letting go and moving on. But I have deadlines and expectations, I need to write this damn book. So here I am, sitting on a 26 hour ride across the country hoping that something, anything, will spark an idea and I’ll just know what to write, unfortunately so far all that’s sparked is hunger and a regrettable obsession with coke and peanut butter m& m’s. I sit up and stretch a little, my back clicking as I do so and glare at the blank screen, the little curser blinking at me, taunting me. Stupid cursor, oh how I loathe you. I suppose I should get something into my system that isn’t sugar; I sigh and get up, grabbing my bag and closing the cabin door behind me, it should be safe right? I mean what are they going to do, steal my laptop and underwear then jump out of a moving train?
I walk past the mum two cabins down who appears to be having a hard time controlling her kids and I shake my head, I’m so glad I never went down that route and I don’t plan on it either, I went and had one of those things implanted in my arm to make damn sure. I can’t picture a miniature me running around, or more so I can’t picture me running after it or having to care for something other than myself, I mean I can’t even keep a pot plant alive and I’m constantly forgetting to feed myself. No wonder my friends never ask me to babysit. Good thing to as I’m terrible at saying no and wouldn’t know how to tell them that hell would freeze over before I watch their kids. I mutter apologies as I squeeze past a gentleman standing by one of the passage window’s and smile when his sassy accented response hits my ears but I don’t turn back. I make it down the last stretch to the dining cart without incident and pick out a window seat away from all the other passengers, the attendant hands me a menu on passing and I peruse through it, there isn’t all that much to choose from but then again this isn’t one of those 5 star trains so I suppose one can’t really be too fussy, I’m starting to regret my decision to travel this way, I can feel the susurrus of stares and I sink lower into the seat to hide behind my menu. Perhaps m&m’s are a better option after all but I’m here already so may as well go ahead and order, the attendant sees me but takes her sweet time coming over and by the time she reaches me I’ve almost changed my mind about eating here again. “Just a chicken mayo and a coke, please” she nods and walks off before I’m able to finish my sentence. I put my head in my hands and rub my temples, I shake my head at myself, no one approved of this trip and I’m starting to think I should have listened, I breathe in deeply a few times and count to ten to calm myself before looking back out the window at the barren landscape, the bushes and dry farmlands passing by. I count the telephone poles until my sandwich arrives.
The sandwich is as bland as I’d expected it to be and I wash it down with the coke, at least I have something in my stomach now and won’t feel too bad about all the junk-food I have and am still going to consume while on this journey. I place a few notes on the table to cover the bill and stand up, brushing a few crumbs from my t-shirt and pants as I do before making my way back to my cabin. I breathe a sigh of relief as soon as I’m out the dining cart and away from all the curious glances. I really don’t like people, they’re so draining and hypocritical, not that they can help it, it’s human nature I suppose but I really wish the world would realize that everyone is fighting a battle you have no right to judge. I sigh and push off from the corner I’d side stepped into to move out the way for a passerby and make the rest of the trek back to my safe space.
I’m still mumbling to myself when I walk into a door, I step back and rub my forehead as I look up only to realize it’s not a door at all, instead it’s the sassy accent and he’s sporting a smirk that would melt the panties off any hot blooded woman. “Sorry, I wasn’t concentrating” I try side step him but he goes the same way I do. “I’d say you were concentrating really hard, on what though is the question.” I try step past him again and again he blocks my path. “The shortcomings of human nature. Now, could you please move?” “Shortcomings huh? And what exactly is it we as humans are lacking?” I look at my hand and confirm that my nose is in fact not bleeding and mimic his postured slouch against the window. “Man’s inabilities to live and let live, people are far too quick to judge someone without first learning their story.” “So then, would you like to tell me your story?” I laugh and toss my hair back “No thanks, I doubt you’d be interested anyway.” “You just fell to your own shortcomings; you don’t know me so how can you tell for certain if I’m going to be interested or not?” “You’re right. But I promise you there isn’t much to know other than I need to get back to my cabin and finally get started on my novel.” I stand up but he makes no move to get out my way, rather he looks thoughtful as he rubs his earlobe and turns back to me “So you’re a writer then?” “Yes, um, no.” “Well, which is it? You either are or you aren’t, or are you just using it as an excuse to stop talking to me. And here I thought we were building up a friendship” I look at him quizzically and laugh then shake my head. “I am a writer, well I’ve written and published a book but I’m stuck on writing the next one.” “So you are a writer then.” “Yes, I suppose you could say so. Not that it feels like it though.” “Mmm. So then what are you doing on this trip then Miss? I don’t think I caught your name?” “You never caught it because I never threw it at you, I’m Autumn. Just Autumn.” “Hi ‘just Autumn’. I’m Jack, just Jack.” I blush as he sticks out his hand and takes mine firmly in his, giving it a good shake and holding on a little longer than considered normal “Hi Jack”. “So Autumn, are you going to tell my why you’re on this trip or are you going to make me guess?” “I don’t really know actually, I decided last minute to book a ticket in hopes that this trip might inspire something but so far that hasn’t happened.” “You could always write about me, devilishly handsome, smart.” “And completely full of yourself.” He laughs and rights himself, moving towards his cabin door. “Want to come in and tell me your story? I have pastrami sandwhiches that beat the crap they serve on this train hands down”. “Maybe later? I’ve just had a rather horrible chicken mayo and I think my appetite and tastebuds are still suffering from its lack of flavour. Plus I’m thinking it’s time to call it a night. I’m done with this day.” He smiles and steps into his cabin so I can pass him “Tomorrow then?” “Tomorrow.” I smile and walk the rest of the short walk to my cabin. I quickly turn my seat into a bed and cover it with a sheet before climbing in and getting comfortable under the sleeping bag I was smart enough to bring along.
The night is long and I’m restless, constantly tossing and turning and unable to get completely comfortable. I lay listening to the sound of the wheels on the tracks for a while before drifting into a slumber but it’s short lived and I’m awake again thinking about all the things that brought me here to this moment in time. I can feel the train slowing down as it reaches another one of its stops and pick up my phone to check the time, 4am already. I lay scrolling through my instagram account for a while before checking twitter and facebook, nothing really interesting but it’s something to do while sleep eludes me. There are half a dozen messages from friends and family wondering where I am but I ignore them, I’m not ready to answer questions yet, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I need this time to myself. Putting my phone down I turn onto my side and stare out the window at the stars, it’s early morning now and they’re starting to fade away, finding solace in the darkness, away from the light. I watch as it becomes lighter and lighter, the day breaking in beautiful pinks and reds. An old saying I heard about a red sky in the morning being a warning comes to mind and I hope that the omen is just an old sailor’s tale and doesn’t hold true, I need a good day. I give up trying to sleep, there’s no point anymore. I throw the blanket off me and shiver as the cold hits my half naked body so I pull on my pants and drag a hooded sweater over my head before putting on my slippers, I grab my toiletry bag then head out to the bathroom. The train is eerily silent except for the general sounds that you’d expect to accompany an old train; the creaking of the compartments and intrusive sounds of the tracks. I pad down the corridor as quietly as possible so as not to wake anyone but trip over my own feet and drop my toiletry bag, I freeze and wait to see if anyone comes out to inspect the noise but no one does so I quickly gather up my stuff and rush the last few step, locking myself up in the bathroom and leaning up against the sink as I clutch my bag to my chest and try calm my breathing. I turn around and look in the mirror, I stare for a while and sigh, I hate what I see. I’ve been told I’m pretty but I simply can’t see it; I could stand to lose a few kg’s, my hair is a boring brown and my features are average at best, the only thing that’s extraordinary about me are my violet eyes, a genetic abnormality that sets me aside from the majority. They’re usually the first thing people comment on, which is always followed up by the question “do you wear contacts?” and then there’s the trying to convince them that I don’t, it gets a little tedious after a while. I wash my face and brush my teeth before I pull the elastic out my hair and finger the braid loose then dig out my brush and comb through my unruly mane till it’s hanging in loose curls down to my lower back. I look back at the mirror. Oh well, best that’s going to happen.
I change into a pair of jeans and old band t-shirt and head to the dining cart to get some boiling water for tea, I need my flavoured teas in the mornings otherwise I stay as grumpy as can be. It’s still relatively early, early enough that there’s no one up yet by the looks of it so I rush down the corridor and quickly find an attendant who grudgingly fills my flask for me, I guess I interrupted some important flirting between him and the other attendant. Not that I feel too bad really, I mean it’s not like I asked to make me breakfast or anything. I head on back to my cabin, transfer some water into a mug and pop in a tea bag, letting it seep and cool a little I turn my bed back into a seat and sit crossed legged on it taking a doodle pad out of my bag along with a few pencils and decide that perhaps I need to try draw up a few character sketches, maybe when I have characters they’ll speak to me and tell me their story.
I flick the eraser dust off the page and pick it up to eye level, I think I finally have it nailed down so I sit back in front of my computer, the page still blank, I pull it closer, take a deep breath and start typing. I still have no idea what I’m writing about but someone told me once to simply start and go from there. So I start typing, and just like that the words come to me and start flowing like they should, I take sassy accent’s advice and write about a stranger on a train, sometimes your own life experiences can make for good filler fodder, maybe I’ll change up my genre a bit and do a science fiction novel or I could go for dystopian, that’s in at the moment right? Have nuclear bombs go off and have the whole world be reordered with genetically modified people like in Delport’s The Legacy, man I loved that book. Neither of those really feels right though, perhaps I should go for the whole murder mystery style, make him a serial killer. Could be fun, and I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds and NCIS to sort of understand how serial killers think and plot. Or maybe I’ll just wing it and see where it takes me. I look outside, the dull landscape has turned into a lush forest of green trees in every shade. Maybe today will be a good day.
Chapter two will be posted on Flat White Concepts on Friday…