Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
On the train from Novi Sad to Budapest, a woman parks herself right next to me, though half of the train is empty. Perhaps she wants a guaranteed seat next to a female. Perhaps I look friendly without really trying–this is my usual state in repose. She tries to speak to me in several languages before we get to German, where we find some common ground. Still, it was as though someone had taken a German dictionary and tore it in half–giving her the first part and me only the second. There was very little overlap. We never make much conversational progress.
Her husband or boyfriend begins sending her text messages every ten minutes. She reads them and presses the phone to her chest in joy. Then she would show the phone to me, “Shau mal.” Look. “Deutsch Deutsch, lese lese.” As though I could read it, since she said it was written in German.
No, it wasn’t written in German. It was Serbian, perhaps Hungarian, or a language with a lot of Js and accent marks. I said I couldn’t read it, and she assured me that I could. So like a toddler, I would pretend, “Oh, how nice that is!” Then she would ask me what it said, and call me out for lying. I would shrug, she would insist. Men in the seats around us scoffed. Well, regardless, it passed the time until her man friend mercifully ran out of things to say.
–Novi Sad to Budapest.