The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.


She was forty-five minutes early for her train–the young woman who kept looking at the arrival screen above her and straining to listen to the loudspeaker’s announcements.  Bahnsteig Eins, Bahnsteig Eins. This never changed. Her watch face must have moved, but she stared at it too. She finally sighed onto a bench by the still empty track. She dug the balls of her feet into the ground and bounced her heels up, quaking her knees in an anxious twitch. It seemed important to communicate her impatience, her readiness to leave.

Upon the massive engine’s arrival, the Chairman of the Austrian National Railways announced that he would like to welcome the passengers onboard the train to Graz. Bolstered by the administrative acknowledgement, the young woman entered the train and helped two elderly passengers put their suitcases onto an overhead luggage rack. Finished, she tucked her brown hair behind her ears, felt like a wonderful person, and smiled out the window.

The train hummed, but remained parked for a few minutes more.  She watched the people outside offering half-hearted air kisses near the cheeks of departing friends, or sometimes drawing close and skipping the air. Then the young woman, with her tremors of impatience, spotted a tall lady on the platform relaying a story to a friend. The tall woman seemed surprised by her own tears, which began as an accompaniment to the tale.  The friend didn’t reach out to comfort the speaker and seemed not entirely to be listening. Yet the woman awaiting departure went suddenly still, trying to discern the drama below.

She brought her wristwatch up to eye level without looking away from the storytelling. Then she lifted ticket, gazing again at the departure time she’d been anticipating, but now furrowing her brow as if she might leave her seat, miss her long-awaited train, just to hear the story outside.

-Westbahnhof. Vienna, Austria.

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