Soon I hear the familiar cadence of the conductor announcing his entrance. A rustle follows: all passengers looking – inside handbags, coat-pockets, books – for their tickets. The conductor is in high spirits; he nods vigorously, adds a musical touch to his Danke Schöns, raises his eyebrows in mock-suspicion. Across the aisle he looks at a ticket and exclaims “Ah! Liège-Guillemins!” as though it were the name of a long-forgotten station. At our table, after he’s done with the rest, he gently taps the sleeping man’s shoulder. The man doesn’t move an inch. “Tickets please!” the conductor says loudly, giving him a shake. Initially startled, the man recovers and hands his ticket to the conductor, who gives it a cursory glance, returns it with a flourish, and moves on.
* * *
She must be in her mid thirties; she’s wearing a green top over a black knee-length skirt. As she sits down her eyes search for the title of the book I’m reading. She pulls out of her bag a sheaf of papers and begins to read what looks like an essay. I catch only the title: “Rom/Berlin Achse”. She underlines some lines as she reads, and occasionally scribbles words in the wide margin. Is she a teacher? Or a student of history?
Suddenly music fills the air – violins singing Vivaldi – and then, a few seconds later, it stops. We look up, and our eyes meet; she smiles, I smile back. Then she returns to her papers and I to my book.
* * *