May 20, 2020

The friendship train

"You would think life could be better but you would be wrong"

I'm standing on the train taking me home. Don't get me wrong, I have a seat, I have a ticket with an assigned seat and so I could take a seat on the train taking me home. But it's a shitty seat, it's full of shit. I mean to say, there's a lot of shit on my seat, spreading on the backrest. It looks like goose droppings, or bird droppings anyway, I should taste it to figure it out. Not that I eat shit with such regularity that I would guess it’s origin from the first tasting, but instinctively something tells me it would give itself away. You know how you can tell by taste if an egg is from a a goose or a hen, well so it must be with this shit. It's white, with some greenish yellow. I'll remember this shit for some time to come. Maybe I could trick my chairmate into eating it, he has the face of a man who has eaten a lot of shit in his life, what’s another tasting from the back of my chair. Ehh, I'm losing my temper, no matter what creature shat on my chair, this will keep me up standing all the way to Buzau. So I sit in the hallway next to the rows of chairs and push my back against the window. I can hardly let all these chubby ladies get by me. The corridor is tight, too tight not to rub your ass or tits on me, it’s a real friendly train.
I am in Bucharest-Chisinau proclaimed “The Friendship Train" by the voice of the North Station. It's a long train made up of dark green wagons with white stripes and completed at the end by a few burgundy carriages. The green ones are Moldavian but look Russian by their letters, and the burgundy ones are Romanian by their rust. They are ugly fat conductors from both countries in the corridors, haunting like ghosts in search of tickets and bribes. I like them, they look like the kind of people who would steal your wallet and have a beer with your cash at the next station. That's why I like them, I like that they would drink, I like that they would steal your money for such a simple pleasure, so honest. It must be wonderful to have a job on the move, to be a professional passenger, without responsibilities, to go from car to car as in a ship at sea.
The train is intangible as long as it moves, the snow, the people, the animals, the motorcars, they are all pulverized if they don’t get out of the way. Come to think of it, the engineer doesn't have any responsibilities either, if he sees you on the rails, it's already too late to matter. What an adrenaline rush, smashing cars on the railway. Shitty salary, of course, but those days when you slap a minibus around must be worth it. I can see him opening his little window and swearing at the people jumping left and right in little pieces: "Damn commuters, next time take the train". Where else do you get the opportunity to literally smash your competition. Cheers of joy and approval coming from behind “Yes sir, they deserved it, why where they on the railway in the first place”.
The train goes slowly towards our Moldavian brothers or our Moldavian cousins or our Moldavian racketeering uncles. I have nothing against our neighbors, the Moldavian drunks, and the Moldavian ladies aren’t bad either. So towards them, towards our Moldavians. And these Moldavian chicks look at my seat with longing, it’s the only empty seat in this whole stinking train. These red-haired girls decide that it's not so bad to sit with shit at their backs and they convince themselves, that they will not lean backwards, that they will sit firmly on their buttocks for several hundred kilometers paying attention to an exercise in posture. One of them comes to me and asks me shyly, pressed, confidentially, so that none of the others can hear, if the seat is free. I smile, nod my head up and down, and answer "no". I can’t remember where I heard Russians nod like this when saying “no”, but I was wrong because this confused girl sat on my chair anyway and assumed the stiff back position. I wanted to tell her that the seat was indeed taken, but that would mean I'm somewhat of an ass-hat, and no one wants to admit that to himself.
Reconciled with the lost seat I start having a better look at those seated next to me. Tough hands sit on the chairs next to me, worked hands, sunburned, muscles gained through work sit next to me. Veins from sun-baked hands sit next to me.
An old man is huddled together with two others, three of them on two seats. He sits with his cap on one side, you'd say he's a sailor if we weren't so far from the sea. The old man is slender and looks tougher than the young moujiks next to him. They’re construction workers, they insulate communist apartment buildings during the week and return home on weekends. The capital demands heavy hands for good money and these men break their backs on scaffolding for it.
The old man has faded blue eyes and a sort of finality in him. It seems to me that his back held him up right just enough to get himself seated, that once seated he got stuck in the soft fake skin of the chair. A chair presumably without goose shit on it. That's just a guess, because I didn't get to see their chairs, they were all seated when I showed up. I think someone put a goose over the chairs on the luggage rack and from there “bombs away” on my backrest. But that happened on another trip, because now there's no trace of a goose. More than likely a  goose, but I'm not getting into that again.
A thread of light penetrates through the curtains and falls on the eyes of the young worker next to the window. Gramps takes off his cap, revealing a thick bald spot, and puts it over the lad nailed by the light beam.
“Is that better?”, he asked.
“Thanks pops”.
The old man dries up a one-liter bottle of beer and tosses it in a saddlebag between his legs like a well-done thing. Then, still with his hand in the saddlebag, he secretly takes out a bottle of colored spirits, washing his mouth with it he then passes it along to the fellow next to him. A boy with ripped knee jeans takes a mouthful and a glaze moves over his eyes. He rubs his face and smiles at the old man. The old man winks at him and nods to pass it along. To their right by the window in a half-open hoodie with no T-shirt on is the lad who was trying to take a catnap. The unshaven man takes a eager mouthful and wakes up immediately jumping on his feet.
The liquor tickles their tongues and makes them talk.
In front of them, next to the chair that would have been mine, is the fourth scaffolder, he is sweating with his hair glued to his forehead. I've never seen a man with so many muscles have a more embarrassed look on his face. More robust than the others, he had broad shoulders and his nose was broken to the right. His nose made him ugly and gave him a hissing breath. He licked his upper lip when he spoke, but preferred to be silent. The old man did not hand him the talkative liquor, he took another swill and put it half empty back in the bag.
It was obvious the old man had been handsome in his youth, but from his stories this hadn’t helped him at all. He had taken up a beautiful wife who pretended to work when he was home but was the village whore for the rest of the time. The young men were grinning from ear to ear as the old man flourished his life stories so they would learn from his mistakes and avoid beautiful women.

This filthy train is full to the brim with people, but these scaffolders are next to me and I like to listen to them. Of course, there are also Merlin Monroe hotties with windy hair and sunglasses. Not to mention brunettes half-melted in their chairs, who remember from time to time not to sit bow-legged on a train crowded with construction workers. There are guys with earrings in their ears and a dubious looking dude with an nail in his eyebrow.
A lass with sunglasses takes a long look at me, I must have admired her too intensely or maybe she wants to scold me for rubbing against all these women fluttering around back and forth on the train. She takes off her glasses and looks at me, she has deep dark circles around her eyes. I whisper to her like a prayer, “Don't love, put the glasses back on, you look much cooler with them on”.
I can't believe it ... she listened to me ... Or maybe she read my lips who knows. Now she’s bored playing with her feet under the chair. I should go over there and figure her out ... I should... 
Oh my God, this hellion in front of me... she’s the mother of all chatterboxes, I can't have a strait thought in my head for all the noise she’s making. She is standing in front of me turning some poor bastard’s head into mush. I can only see this poor man’s head nodding. She has a book in her hand, but in an hour and a half she hasn’t put it to her eyes once. She hasn’t stop talking all this time. I can't think anymore, damn it.
I take refuge between the wagons for a bit of peace, here the rails break beneath my feet but at least I can’t hear that woman's voice. I sit in that place between the wagons, with two metal plates sandwiched between me and the angry ground below. Between the bellows and the metal plates I can see a torrent of earth, gravel and railway sleepers flowing under me. I get dizzy, I try not to look. It's an adventure up here between the wagons, death is close and the cigarettes taste better. This is the last place where you can smoke on the train, the last quiet place, until they’re modernized into airtight passages. Fuck them with their modernization… Fuck innovation. Fuck it.

Photo by Paul @causeimluap
Versiunea în română: Trenul prieteniei


  1. Confused at first but Nice one. Did you have experienced a train journey like that ??

    1. You shouldn't trust writers. We are the bunch of liars trying to tell good stories