We are heading home, after almost 3 months travelling. We are tired and are on an overnight train to Chicago, to catch the train to Dallas, to catch the plane back home to Australia. I love train travel, the rhythms, the views through the window and the conversations you can’t help but overhear.
Behind me sit two people who have met for the first time, they are about my age I think, middle aged, judging by their voices and the stories they tell. And the stories they tell…
He, divorced, thought he loved his wife until she abandoned their daughter when she most needed a mother. He was there through the hard, terrible times, the mother far away. My daughter is friends with her now, he says, but that’s all they will ever be, just friends. Whereas I am her father, I stayed.
The other passenger listens well and says my older sister died from a drug overdose, I know it can be hard to stay. Your daughter was lucky to have you.
They talk of families. Both have watched their parents be nursed and die. We just all decided that she could go, he says about his mother. She just seemed to not want to live any more.
I like my job he says. I lost mine she says, two years ago. It is hard to get another one at my age, employers think you are too old. I worked hard all my life and am now struggling. My children are too far away. I married my soul mate straight out of high school. It was a good marriage but after 29 years we just drifted apart. I changed, he didn’t.
I have a girlfriend he says but lots of complications, a teenage son. I think I am tired of all that, I have done it all before. I like the freedom now of living alone, travelling when I want to... Slowly two lives are unwound and stories are told as the train heads into the night. Two lives still with the pain and the love so evident in what I overhear. I drift asleep.
The next morning is busy with breakfast and arrival. I see her later waiting for her luggage, he has gone.