After one week staying at the hotel in the town where she’d chosen to disembark, Moira had seen a total of four men, one dog and perhaps one daughter. The dog had offered promise about the town as he led her toward the aroma of burnt sugar early one morning. She moved quickly toward the idea of a sweet bun but the only door on the street emitting the scent of sugar had opened quickly then shut as she approached.
She’d abandoned the hotel. Now back on the train, having gotten a return ride in the taxi with the same driver who’d delivered her to the hotel, she at least felt like there would be progress. Her backpack stowed under the metal seat and her jacket shoved against the wall of the passenger car, she tried to sleep. A heaviness descended on her as if the week had sucked every ounce of life force from her. She felt limp and watched herself drifting. She forced her eyes to roam the car for any danger but there was no one. A man yelled outside on the station platform followed by the screech of metal against metal and then the clicking of the wheels.
Sweat trickling from her hairline down her cheek woke her. In her dream a fly had landed on her face and she attempted to bat it away. The imagined movement woke her. She sat up and unstuck herself, now drenched in sweat, from where she’d fallen asleep against the car wall. A mother had entered at some point in the journey. A baby slept in a shawl wrapped around the woman’s torso. Neither seemed to be aware of Moira’s presence. She felt her stomach tighten. Not another day on another train where she seemed invisible.
All she’d wanted when she fled home was to leave the mess she’d made with everyone. Daughter, boss, friends. She’d run out of apologies and needed a restart. But not this. She needed people going about their daily lives. She needed to be sucked into the swirl of a place where markets buzzed with laughter, commerce, hot grills cooking pork or chickens. She’d risk her life eating whatever they were cooking. She wanted to see colors so deep that they would hurt her eyes.
The inside of the train filled with a light fog and she tried to blink it away. Were the mother and her baby only a mirage? Moira coughed and stood up. The mother turned to look at her. And Moira knew she could bear this ride a little longer. She was real. The mother was real.