The Hope of Love
Some things seemed to bear relation to what was in the imagination. The sounds of the wind, the colors of the sky, the smell of the ocean.
But it could tire a person, the difference of the heart. Sometimes it was tiring just considering the future. It was still a long walk ahead to the town and she wondered whether she’d overdone her daily itinerary this time. Yet inside somewhere she knew that she had to move on towards the north, to somewhere. Her hike through parts of Patagonia had been a beautiful but lonely one and only the nights had been like small pinholes of refuge for her strangely disillusioned thoughts.
'There is a sacrifice for each journey made and it is connected with the leaving behind of something and inevitably the gaining of something else. There is no in-between for any true journey. The distance travelled is equitable to the journey within the person. And the destination is always transient'.
The mist hung like veils of natures' mysterious protective skin. It was early morning and she was the first there. The coffee tasted good and in this small village bar she tried to imagine that she had left behind her comforts. But as she looked out into the misty street that led down to the small road on which she’d walked along she found that strange welcoming feeling in the fact that the mind could do so much less to gain so much more. And she realized that she was leaving behind a part of her assumed identity.
She was different, such had been who she was. For as far back as she could remember she’d felt only on the outside of life. Often to assuage the difficult emotions that plagued her she had reassured herself that she had been born with a destructive tendency to immerse into extremism. The past was a story of excess, not so much with modern day addictions but with moral issues. The word that summed up everything was clichéd and crushed from its tragic abuse and misuse. That word was 'love'.
Last night she'd dreamed she was looking through a hidden glass window and screaming at others she loved and cared for. They were indifferent and could not hear what she was saying although they saw her lips move. She watched them and questioned her own belonging.
She considered that people everywhere were falling in love, talking nonsense, believing lies, wanting truths, needing hope. All of it was a storybook inside each of the actors in the play of circumstance and the complexity of life as a human.
The morning mist was clearing, her coffee almost finished. Soon she would set off along the narrow sloping road again that led to the town and the Train Station...
As she walked along the side of the road she reflected upon some of the thoughts she had pondered while travelling. She felt drawn to 'the bigger picture' in life. To the quest for meaning and understanding and ultimately 'Truth'.
‘Truth has to be a consistent objectivity'.
‘Because surely like time it is constant and does not change.’
Occupied with her thoughts she entered the outskirts of the town and then focusing her mind on her situation she approached a person to ask for directions to the train station.
She had boarded the train not certain as to where exactly she wanted to travel to, her heart beating fiercely in her chest as she sat on the frayed blue empty seat in the final compartment. She had bought no ticket because she had no real destination in mind but she was aware that she would face the conductor sooner or later and wondered when he would get to her. Then she was moving, the rhythm of the train like a constant surge of horses sent forth again like some ancient Roman legion that gained ground on an enemy with a living force and a power in numbers and her mind began to swim with her reflections once more.
'We don’t really want the things that we don’t understand because we feel frightened of them.'
'Life can be full of injustice' he said with an ironic smile as soon as he had sat across from her. She glanced across at him with a mixture of suprise and frustration on her face.
He was a scruffy man, she had met many strange and scruffy people in her young life, it didn't bother her too much.
It didn’t seem as if he had spoken though as there was no change in his demeanour but just a slight furrow in his brow. She looked across at him, his bleached blonde hair falling around his shoulders.
'Where are you going?' he asked her as he adjusted the back pack on the seat next to him, taking a bottle of water from one of its pockets.
Instead of answering with words she smiled at him, her heart still feeling the adrenalin of having boarded the train without a ticket or a destination.
He drank some water, offering her some of it but she declined.
'Do you know what' he said, 'I just did the craziest thing and got on this train with no money for a ticket and no destination to get to!'.
It was to be the journey of their lives, young hearts full of hope and dreams that sought the answers to the mystery of living. Intertwined with life's mystery was a love they knew existed and that they had searched for knowingly and unknowingly throughout their lives. The love that was the reward of courage, of hope, of trust.
‘I was wondering and wondering' she spoke to him as the motion of the train moved beneath her like the rhythm of time.
‘I wish I could say all the things that I truly feel but sometimes it just gets wasted, I mean my words' he didn't respond and after some seconds she added 'do you know what I mean?’ and she looked into his face.
He nodded and spoke.
The train hummed and soothed the ache of the skin around her temples.
She focused on what she was trying to say ‘you know to show my heart inside, the person inside, it's this intensity that makes me feel so misunderstood’.
The smell of cigarette smoke drifted down to where they sat opposite one another as the train moved steadily northwards. She was thinking of how someone could get into trouble smoking on a train, it seemed to her like a long time until he spoke again.
'We have to learn to be at peace with our loneliness' he said quietly.
His face seemed strained and beneath his eyelids she could see the signs of a lack of sleep. He had travelled far with nothing but the ache of his own soul to guide him. And now he was here, next to her.
'We have to recognize the fact and understand the fact that we will always be alone to some extent until we can find a way of expressing our truth’ he continued.
‘But I want to help, I can help people with what I know, I mean there's something important I can communicate with…’ her hands fidgeted as she thumped her leg gently 'with what I can feel inside'.
‘Yes I know, I feel the same motivations’ he turned and looked at her, her hazel eyes seemed reflected within his own.
The signal boxes stood to attention as the train made its way towards the city. Inside the final carriage amongst a number of travellers the two strangers sat deep in a conversation that would inevitably affect their final destinations in life.
‘Do you ever observe people?’ she asked him.
‘Yes, of course, it’s a human condition’ he breathed out in a sigh as though in some past personal reflection.
The seats were soft but frayed blue polyester material sprouted from their edges, the age and wear and tear from so many who had used them. She played with a thread of the material in her hand, moving it between her thumb and her forefinger.
‘Most of us search for something of ourselves in other people’ he said and she nodded in response to his words and placed the thread in her cupped palm as she pondered all of the times she had so encouragingly made eye contact with other people in the street.
It was an experience that seemed to repeat itself inexplicably even though the sense of disappointment was so vividly apparent when her eyes made contact. Only a few would not divert their gaze away in the pretense that nothing had ever taken place. That a soul had not looked for their soul in recognition of a connection there, a connection that spoke of belonging to the same human race.
Sometimes she would find an empathy and a smile in them few that filled her heart in some way but the reality of why she did it had seemed uncertain except for the fact that she wanted to do it, to randomly connect with others, to help others.
What he said made her see the truth about how fragmented as a whole society human beings had become. She closed her eyes and thought of a difficult past experience for a moment remembering how lost and broken she had felt because of it. When she opened her eyes and glanced towards him he met her look with openness and a welcome smile.
‘It's easy to feel like you are an outsider casting your eyes over the rest of society’ she said in a frustrated tone more than in anger.
‘Yes I know' he said still smiling, 'because before we can change the world we have to change ourselves’.
She said 'have you ever considered how people just seem to look at you as though they need to recognize you in their own minds as to what you mean to them'.
He rubbed his neck and then reaching for the water bottle again said 'that’s a strange comment'.
'Well don’t you think that people enjoy judgment?' she continued.
He took a drink of water 'Go on'.
'It’s so that they can find a place to put themselves'. She rolled a piece of blue cotton thread between her fingertips declining his offer of water with a shake of her head.
'In what way exactly?' he countered.
She lifted up her chin as she spoke...
'Well they can find a sense of belonging in their own minds by judgment, or more precisely, misjudgment'.
He gazed down at his open palms, the lines that streaked across them were an individual identity, nobody had the same kind.
'But that’s okay though isn’t it, I mean trying to find out who you are in this life even by making errors of judgment' he said.
She looked at him though he was still gazing at his hands, then turning towards the window she said softly...
'A vast number of people don’t know who they really are, they just assume identity by comparison and it’s almost always an exterior comparison of what they see on the outside'.
'I understand what you're saying but aren’t you now judging others and comparing yourself by talking like this?' he crossed his arms grinning at her.
She sighed slightly but smiled back at him.
'It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have anything to say or too much to say'. He said.
'So what matters then?'
'That you say it'.
Outside the carriage the first view of the Pacific Ocean came into view, it was incredibly beautiful and she stood up to open the window, pulling it towards her and letting the air blow through her long dark hair. She could suddenly smell the sea and felt that her senses were alive with a feeling and understanding of the immensity of life. She had grown up by the sea and memories flooded back to her now.
She sat back down and her mind gradually came back to the conversation and his last words.
He was looking at her, his blue eyes shining with the sunlight that lit the train carriage. 'I say lots of things' she said
The edges of his mouth turned slightly upwards in mild amusement and he laughed infectiously.
She laughed with him and then looked ahead at the passengers in front, they all seemed to be making preparations to be shortly exiting the train. She didn't know where she was going but neither did he, in a strange way it made her feel happy.
‘It’s funny but I was just thinking of the ample ways of being happy’
‘Well simple things make me so happy sometimes so surely we could all find simple ways to be happy...' she smiled a slightly mischievous smile 'but then maybe I am just too simple' and she made a funny face.
They laughed again feeling like kids and then he took out a packet of peanuts from his back pack and offered her some. The train began to slow and they looked at each other as they munched on the food.
They were in their shared peace of real companionship she thought and it brought her mind round to the beauty of the most natural things in life. The warmth of light, the feel of the wind, the smell of the ocean, a shared journey with a real companion.
She thought also of time and perspective, how in her life she had realized that she was just a tiny grain of sand in the vastness of the beach of life. And time, a great mysterious liberating yet imprisoning paradox so inconspicuous and full of complexities that could fill a human beings’ life if they chose to think about it too much.
The train stopped, some passengers got off and others got on. The conductor walked past them and the train continued on. It would follow the coastline along this long narrow country.
It stretched from the edge of the silent and eerily frozen Antarctic domain through and past the equator that defines the central lineage of the world. A majestic land that stood out between the two Kings of the Ocean and the immense range of mountains known as ‘Los Andes’.
In the Southern hemisphere above the furthest edge of the vast South American continent, the coastline divides into east and west. Along the east side the Atlantic Ocean trails around the shores making its way up to the calmer seas of the Caribbean where it melds into the warmer seas and spreads westwards into the gulf of Mexico.
On the west side the mighty Pacific Ocean, the largest ocean of all on Earth, smashes its way down through its Southern waters with a bitter resistance. It constantly tries to reach across and beyond what lies in the way, it's waves and currents battling in a constant frustrated war that can never be won, only waged.
The Andes sprawled along the distant horizon view on their right like ancient pillars holding up half the world. The mountains traversed the length of Chile as though to separate the country from all eastern invaders and outsiders. Before the radical events of the industrial age and the coming of the commercial metal machines to transport humanity and foreign trade, it had stayed apart from the rest of the world arguably because of its unique location.
The range of these vast mountains stretched thousands of miles through over half a dozen countries. The peaks and ridges pointing accordingly at various times to the heavens as though seeking their very maker in their great silence and solitude, their language of calling resonating in their utter immensity. They were not dead and inanimate, but old and aware, and silent watchers amongst the chaos around them.
They were the protectors from the sky and they watched and waited for those who would pass by their ancient walls.
It was an old train, the carriages inside had wooden flooring from the 1950s before plastic compounds had become socially embraced in most everyday transport and objects. But the slightly rusting metal interior framing painted with a now flaking paint contrasted somehow perfectly with the old but fashionable blue seating. At the station she had looked over the outside of the train as it had pulled in to the platform. The bright yellow lines that forked along the sides of the carriages were crisscrossed with broken lines of previous coats of dark grey paint and more rust, as though the very atmosphere in which they had grown had corrupted their significance. They moved ever northwards, between the mountains and the ocean.
'Would you like to read a poem I wrote?' he pulled a scrap of paper from his back pocket.
She nodded 'Yes, okay' and she took the paper from him.
'Spontaneous scribbling' he said with a tired smile as he sat back in the chair and closed his eyes.
The train ebbed onwards in a soothing motion.
She looked at the poem and read it silently.
Sprinkled by an immortal hand
Its particles weaved invisible tracks
Until they became the air itself
The breath of the world that inhaled
And exhaled in the lives of mortal men
Spent itself in the hearts of all
Some breathed it out and contemplated
Some breathed it in and allowed
Faith was not a timid thing to have
It was the procuring form that shaped life and death
She liked it and she looked at the man sat beside her, he was resting and she folded the poem neatly and put it in her small travel money bag strapped around her waist. She rested her head back on the seat and slept for a while.
She was awake when he opened his eyes.
Outside it was pitch black.
'Where are we?' he asked groggily.
'On a train to nowhere' she said smiling back at him.
He stretched his arms and yawned wearily.
'We're on a train to nowhere' he repeated and they both laughed and looked at one another shaking their heads.
'Maybe we're crazy' she said giggling
'The world is crazier than us so we're not that crazy' he responded
She looked at his scruffy clothes and thought he looked quite charming.
'Why do you dress like you do' she asked?
'I dress like this because it keeps me safe from the modern condition' he replied.
'Oh' was all she could say, her hands turning to more of the thread that had frayed from the seat, she turned it in her fingers as though it was a word she was about to speak.
'So what’s the modern condition?'
He turned to look out of the window.
'I am surprised that you ask' he said.
'Aren't you going to tell me?'
He continued to look out of the window, his eyes squinting as though trying to perceive something far beyond.
'Small talk', he finally explained.
'What do you mean by that exactly?' she asked, her hazel eyes searching his.
'I mean that the modern condition dictates that we avoid recognizing our own responsibility as individuals and people who can actually really change the world we live in'.
'I am a person who is responsible individual' she reasoned back at him.
'But to be truly responsible is to shed the lifelong reliance on what you are fed from the world for example from the governments and states that rule'.
'But I do that' she responded.
He stood up and looked down at her, the electric light of the carriage lit up her face so that she looked more beautiful than he had ever imagined possible.
'By saying you do, you prove that you don’t'.
'Is that one of your riddles?' she asked impatiently.
'The truth most people believe is riddled' he said.
She said nothing and he sat down next to her for the first time as they both looked out at the passing darkness. Her mind reflected on the journey and the many pieces of the grand puzzle that they had tried to piece together in this shared time. There was so much to do with her life, so much still to learn, so much to become.
On the old blue seats of the train they sat, two young people on a journey that had brought them together, two strangers to each other until this day. The motion of the train filled the comfortable silence with gentle soft tones as the endless tracks spread out into the distance beyond.
She took the poem out of her money bag. 'Not a bad bit of scribble' she said and he smiled touching her hand accidentally as he took it from her. 'Not bad for an amateur' he said and closed his eyes again. He was tired and she wasn't sure exactly why he'd sat next to her when there were two free seats across from hers but it didn't matter. She was glad he was here, her companion into the unknown. Before she turned the carriage light off she saw he hadn't replaced the poem in his pocket, it was on the seat between them and four words and a small picture were written on the blank piece of one folded edge. It said 'That you say it' and underneath the words was a roughly drawn heart. She turned off the light and sat back on the seat resting her head and closing her eyes. She knew that they were both reluctant to get off the train, that they had nowhere to go, no fixed point or destination but she had known that she had to get on this train heading north. The same train he had chosen. They didn't even know one another’s name. What did that matter though, what was a name but a title and what was a title but an expectation. Later, when a crescent moon appeared in the night sky she placed her hand over his.